Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday the United States is in talks with the Taliban to resolve apparent “issues” blocking Americans, lawful permanent residents and Afghan allies from leaving Afghanistan on charter flights.
During a press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Qatar officials, Blinken said verifying the accuracy of manifests, identifying passengers, meeting aviation security protocols and securing places to land are among the issues President Joe Biden’s administration is working to resolve, but said it is difficult because “we don’t have personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.”
“And these raise real concerns, but we are working through each and every one in close coordination with the various initiatives and charter flights that are seeking to evacuate people. But I just want to emphasize that there are a lot of issues to work through,” Blinken said.
“We continue to engage. We’re engaging as we speak to resolve these issues and, indeed, to hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people with travel documents, including American citizens, freely depart Afghanistan,” he continued. “And we’ve reiterated this point directly to the Taliban in recent hours. As with any commitment the Taliban makes, we’re focused on what they do, not just on what they say. But this, of course, is not just us; it’s the entire international community.”
Blinken said Biden’s administration believes around 100 Americans are still stuck in Afghanistan, and one of the biggest challenges in getting them out involves verifying travel documents. He added that “the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document” but “those without valid documents can’t leave.”
“We have been assured, again, that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave,” Blinken said. “And again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that. They’ve upheld that commitment in at least one instance in the last 24 hours with a family that was able to leave through an overland route, and we are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation in Mazar-e-Sharif. So we have to work through the different requirements, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Defense Secretary Austin said he is “absolutely proud” of American troops who helped evacuate 124,000 people, including just around 5,000 Americans – an effort that left U.S. 13 service members dead, over a dozen others injured, and thousands of Americans, legal residents, and Afghan allies behind enemy lines.
“I’d also say that no operation is ever perfect.,” Austin continued. “There are lessons to be learned. And what we’ll do is what we always do in the military, is conduct an after-action review, take a look at ourselves, take a look at what we did, what could have been done better.”