Individuals in Afghanistan stay in danger after US troops have withdrawn

WASHINGTON – Now that US forces have left Afghanistan, the remaining Americans who want to leave the country and the numerous Afghans at risk for helping the US mission must rely on diplomatic pressure, not American military power to ensure that they can be moved out safely.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised that, with the support of its international allies, the Biden administration would continue to reach out to the remaining Americans and help them if they choose to leave.

“If an American in Afghanistan tells us they want to stay for the time being, and in a week or a month or a year they’ll come up and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ we’ll help them leave,” he said in a televised address on Monday evening, just hours after the last US military plane took off in Kabul, officially ending the country’s longest war.

Blinken said fewer than 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan and the actual number is “likely closer to 100”.

The secretary said the administration is trying to come up with an exact number by scouring manifests and calling those on the lists they have.

The challenge is that “there are long-time residents of Afghanistan who have American passports and are trying to figure out whether or not to leave the country,” he said. “Many are dual citizens, deeply rooted, and have extended families in Afghanistan who have lived there for many years. For many, it’s a painful decision.”

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For Afghans whose lives are in danger for working with the US or Allied forces, the US withdrawal was a terrible moment, a grim ending to weeks of clandestine efforts to get a coveted spot on a US evacuation flight.

“Not an option for us,” an Afghan who worked for an American project said in a message to USA TODAY on Monday. “Just hide.”

Blinken said the State Department would continue to work to get them out.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefed on US citizens remaining in Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that he believes the number of Americans left behind is higher than Blinken’s estimate, but did not provide an exact number. And he quickly turned to the plight of Afghans who worked for the US military.

“They’re the ones who got the … bull’s eye on the back,” he said. “And they will most likely be the ones who will die.”

Blinken said the government will resolutely pressure the Taliban-controlled Afghan government to keep its word on granting safe passage to U.S. citizens who wish to leave in the future – a promise that critics expect becomes one for their brutality known organization now quickly broken US troops have left.

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“The Taliban undertake to enable anyone with proper documents to leave the country safely and orderly,” said the secretary. “You have said that often in private and in public.”

Blinken said he believes international pressures, including support from more than 100 countries and a UN resolution adopted on Monday calling on the Taliban to facilitate safe passage for people who want to leave Afghanistan, are effective tools are to force the Taliban to work together.

“The international choir is strong and will stay strong,” he said.

Army PFC Kimberly Hernandez high-five a girl evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan before boarding a bus upon arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia on Monday, August 30, 2021.

Blinken said the US had already spoken to Taliban officials about reopening Kabul airport for commercial service. This would allow for a small number of daily charter flights that may be available for Americans wishing to depart.

“We have no illusion that all of this will be easy,” he said. “This will be a very different phase of the evacuation that has just been completed. It will take time to face new challenges. But we will stick with it.”

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Said he also plans to continue serving Americans or those who have helped the US mission.

“My team has worked around the clock with agencies, organizations and individuals on the ground to evacuate American citizens, visa holders and our Afghan allies from Afghanistan,” he tweeted on Sunday. “We will not give up after the evacuation period has expired.”

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