Secretary of State Antony Blinken says US holds ‘points of incentive, and points of leverage’ with future Afghan government
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Taliban have committed to allowing Americans and at-risk Afghans to leave the war-torn country after the Aug. 31 US withdrawal deadline, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
“Particularly because the effort to bring out of Afghanistan does not end with the military evacuation plan on the 31st, we are very focused on what we need to do to facilitate the further departure of people who want to leave Afghanistan,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department.
“They will not be forgotten, and as I said, we will use every diplomatic, economic assistance tool at our disposal, working hand-in-hand with the international community first and foremost to ensure that those who want to leave Afghanistan after the 31st are able to do so,” he said.
Blinken said Washington holds “points of incentive, and points of leverage” with the future Afghan government regarding the extraction of Afghans and Americans seeking to leave.
US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that his administration remains on track to meet the August deadline, and expressed an eagerness to finish the process as soon as possible.
But he maintained that completing the process by his self-imposed timeline “depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allowing access to the airport for those who we’re transporting out, and no disruption to our operations.”
The US has evacuated more than 82,000 people from Afghanistan since it took control of Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 14.
Blinken said that number includes 4,500 “and likely more” Americans who have been extracted with the State Department having records of roughly 6,000 who expressed a desire to leave.
The US has been in contact with roughly 500 people in the past 24 hours and has provided them with instructions on how to get to the airport, the top diplomat said.
“For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times per day,” Blinken said, “to determine if they still want to leave, and to get the most up to date information and instructions for them on how to do so.”
Some of the additional 1,000 individuals may have already fled Afghanistan, while others may have falsely claimed to be Americans or have chosen to stay, according to Blinken.
“We believe the number of Americans actively seeking to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower,” he said, further noting “many” of them are dual nationals or are still evaluating whether they want to leave.
The figures include only American passport holders, not green card recipients, nor lawful permanent residents.