Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted that the Taliban are preventing the evacuation of American citizens because they do not have proper credentials.
Blinken still does not acknowledge that withdrawing troops before evacuating all Americans has created problems endangering the lives of at least 200 Americans still in Afghanistan.
A “challenge” to identify Americans in Afghanistan
Blinken’s response follows a flurry of allegations that the Taliban are preventing Americans from leaving Afghanistan and preventing six extraction flights from taking off.
Marina LeGree, executive director of Ascend, a nonprofit organization working in Afghanistan, told the AFP news agency that more than 600 Afghans, plus 19 Americans, were being prevented from leaving the airport at Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
Blinken acknowledged at a press conference that “a relatively small number of Americans” are trying to leave Mazar-i-Sharif with their families and suggested that they lack the proper documents. He admitted, however, that the State Department has no way to verify the documents because the U.S. no longer has a presence there.
“One of the challenges has been that, as we understand it, there are groups of people who are grouped together, some of whom have the appropriate travel documents —an American passport, a green card, a visa— and others do not. And it’s my understanding that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document. But they have said that those without valid documents at this point can’t leave,” Blinken told reporters in Qatar.
“Without personnel on the ground, we cannot accurately identify identities or follow a security protocol, so this is a challenge (…) We have engaged with the Taliban on this issue, even in the last few hours, and they told us that they will allow citizens with documents to leave freely,” he said.
He added that he knows of no cases of Americans who are in hostage-like situations but clarified that work is being done to grant requirements to those who wish to leave.
“They’ve said that they will let people with travel documents freely depart. We will hold them to that,” Blinken said.
When the U.S. troops withdrew on August 30, between 100 and 200 of their countrymen stayed behind, breaking the promise made by President Joe Biden to remove all those who wanted to leave before that date.
According to the secretary of state, approximately 100 Americans remain in Afghanistan and he said State Department officials are in direct contact “with virtually all of them.”
Some outside estimates have pegged the number of Americans stranded in Afghanistan at 500. Republicans have pressed the administration to provide the full number, but officials have declined because they say the figure fluctuates constantly as more people leave and some of those who have already left confirm their departures.