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Uncertainty persists for Americans trying to leave Afghanistan after US withdrawal

No U.S. citizen has emerged from the last five flights from Kabul, Gen. Frank McKenzie said on Monday, noting that “although we have continued our outreach activities … none of them have reached the airport “in the last hours of the American presence in Kabul.

The administration does not know exactly how many Americans remain. “We believe that there are still a small number of Americans, less than 200 and probably more than 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We are trying to determine exactly how many,” Secretary of State Antony said on Monday. Blinken.

US military forces have overseen the evacuation of around 6,000 Americans in recent weeks, and the Biden administration insists the United States is attached to Americans who still want to leave Afghanistan.

But with the troops gone, they will have to use other channels. “The diplomatic aftermath of this will now begin,” McKenzie said on Monday. “And I think our State Department is going to work really hard to authorize all the remaining US citizens, and we think the citizens who haven’t been taken out number a few hundred – I think we’re going to be able to do that. take these people out. “

He added: “I think we will also negotiate very hard, very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out. The military phase is over, but our desire to get these people out remains as intense as before.”

He also stressed that it will be difficult to reach the airport safely: “I think the terrorist threat is going to be very high. And I don’t want to minimize that.”

On Monday, the president tasked Blinken with “continuous coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for all Americans, Afghan partners and foreign nationals who wish to leave Afghanistan.”

The United States will continue to rely on the Taliban for help. “We will work with the Taliban and with the next government of Afghanistan, however qualified, to ensure that our citizens are protected and have the opportunity to leave,” McKenzie said.

Blinken said the United States was working with partner countries Qatar and Turkey to allow a small number of daily charter flights to leave Kabul airport at one point.

Americans and Afghans can also travel by land to a country bordering Afghanistan. Consular and diplomatic efforts will be carried out from Doha, Qatar.

But “we have no illusions that this will all be easy or quick,” Blinken said. “It will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation which has just ended.”

Less than two weeks ago, President Biden said that if there were any US citizens left, “we will stay to get them all out.” This was before 13 US servicemen were killed in a terrorist attack near Kabul airport.

“And if you are of the American force – if there are any US citizens left, we will stay to get them all out,” the president said. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos told Aug. 18.

Addressing the evacuation of those who remain in Afghanistan, Biden said in a statement Monday: “The Taliban have made commitments to safe passage and the world will honor them. This will include continued diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in Afghanistan. the region to reopen the airport allowing the continuation of the departure for those who want to leave and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. “

Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pledged that the administration’s commitment to the Americans “does not give up.” She noted that the State Department issued a letter from 100 countries insisting there must be safe passage to the airport. She also singled out a Taliban leader over the weekend as saying those who want to leave will be able to do so, although she added that this does not mean the United States trusts the Taliban’s word.

“Our message to these Americans is that after August 31, we will ensure that there is safe passage for any American citizen, any lawful permanent resident,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on “Face” the Nation “. “And yes, we will ensure the safe passage of those Afghans who have helped us keep going out after August 31.”