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Taliban expected to keep allowing evacuations, says State Department’s Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Taliban is expected to keep letting people leave Afghanistan after the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to exit the war-torn country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.

Some 250 Americans remained in Afghanistan, according to the State Department, along with thousands of Afghans who worked for western organizations or the collapsed Afghan government and feared for their lives as Blinken’s comments aired on ABC’s “This Week.”

“One hundred-fourteen countries have made very clear that it is their expectation that the Taliban will permit freedom of travel going past August 31st,” Blinken said.

Pressed on why he would trust the Taliban — the U.S. enemy that stunningly came back to power earlier this month — Blinken pointed to recent comments from a Taliban official.

“A very senior Taliban leader spoke on television and on the radio throughout Afghanistan and repeatedly assured the Afghan people that they would be free to travel after August 31st,” the U.S. diplomat said.

“I’m not saying we should trust the Taliban on anything. I’m simply reporting what one of their senior leaders said to the Afghan people,” he said.

Speaking on CNN, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan echoed Blinken’s comments.

“After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage for American citizens, legal permanent residents and the Afghan allies who have travel documentation to come to the United States,” he said.

The State Department said it was working to get the last Americans out of Afghanistan.

“Our team on the ground continues to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account,” a State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying by CNN.

The U.S. has gotten about 114,000 people out of Afghanistan since Aug. 14, the White House said on Sunday.

The U.S. is working to keep Kabul’s airport — the scene of a horrific Thursday suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. troops and more than 170 Afghans — up and running, Blinken said.

“The Taliban have a strong interest in having an airport that functions, the Afghan people have a strong interest in an airport (that) functions, the entire international community has that interest,” he said.

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