State Dept. says it is ‘surging resources and consular affairs personnel’ to assist Afghans seeking refugee status.
WASHINGTON (AA) – The US announced on Tuesday that it has completed the process to draw down its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan to “core” staffers.
American diplomatic staff who remain at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport will be tasked with assisting in the evacuation of Americans, as well as Afghan nationals seeking to come to the US as refugees, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Locally-hired embassy staff who remain in Afghanistan are also being contacted to see if they want to come to the US under the Special Immigrant Visa program.
“The department is surging resources and consular affairs personnel to augment the relocation of American citizens and Afghan special immigrants,” said Price. “We successfully relocated many of our locally employed staff and are in direct contact with the remainder to determine who is interested in relocation and the process for doing so.”
Veteran US Ambassador John Bass, who previously served as Washington’s envoy to Ankara, is being sent to the airport to coordinate logistics.
The US military resumed flights into and out of the airport late Monday after chaotic scenes showed people desperate to flee the group swarming the tarmac as military planes took off with several people appearing in bystander video footage to fall from at least one aircraft mid-take off.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed earlier on Tuesday that US military commanders on-site at the airport are in communication directly with Taliban commanders “on the ground outside the airport.”
The war between the Taliban and Afghan forces intensified as foreign troops announced their withdrawal from the country by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion.
The Taliban made rapid military advances in recent weeks and took control of the capital on Sunday as Afghan government forces fled or surrendered. Former President Ashraf Ghani also left the country.