Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/AFP
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said as many as 1,500 US citizens have not left Afghanistan yet August. Deadline 31.
Speaking at a press conference, Blinken said government officials are in contact with nearly 500 of those still in the Taliban-controlled country, and that officials are providing them with instructions on how to reach Kabul airport safely.
“For the approximately 1,000 people we have left who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we are communicating aggressively with them several times a day through multiple communication channels to determine if they still want to leave,” he said, noting that some may turn out to be They are not US citizens.
Over the past 10 days, he said, the State Department has evacuated about 4,500 US citizens.
Blinken stressed the complexity, risks, and challenges of the process in maintaining an accurate count of the number of Americans living in Afghanistan, saying that registering at the US Embassy while living abroad is entirely voluntary. He also said he was “relentlessly focused” on getting local staff at the US embassy in Kabul out of the country.
“We are operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with a very real possibility of an attack by ISIS-K,” he said, describing the coordinated effort as “extremely dangerous.”
Troops on the ground are reportedly struggling to meet the month-end deadline, but Blinken insisted that the US was “on track to complete our mission” as long as the Taliban continued to cooperate. Regardless, President Biden has called on the Pentagon and State Department to put in place contingency plans in case the evacuation mission isn’t completed in time.
“But let me be absolutely clear about this: There is no deadline for our work to help any remaining American citizen who decides they want to leave to do so, along with the many Afghans who have stood by us all these many years wanting to leave the country and have been unable to do so. Thus, this effort will continue every day after the 31st of August.”
In addition, Blinken said efforts are “underway on the part of countries in the region” to try to keep the airport open after August 31, when US forces are expected to finish their job.