US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that as of Wednesday, all US citizens who asked for help leaving Afghanistan, are prepared to depart the country and have the correct travel documents “have been offered an opportunity to do so.”
However, the top US diplomat stressed that the effort to evacuate US citizens would continue, as the numbers of Americans in Afghanistan who decide to leave fluctuates as people change their minds.
Speaking alongside Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Blinken said that the US government had already facilitated the departure of more than 380 US citizens and 280 legal permanent residents from Afghanistan since August 31, when the US withdrew from Afghanistan.
Blinken qualified that those US citizens who had been offered the opportunity to leave are ones who the State Department “identified as prepared to depart and having the necessary travel documents.”
‘A picture that changes’
Blinken stressed that his announcement relates to this one particular moment.
The picture “changes on a on a regular basis,” Blinken said, “because what happens is this: Some people who have identified as Americans say, nonetheless, they don’t want to leave because their families, extended families, are in Afghanistan, and they want to continue to stay there.”
“Others change their minds and have told us they don’t want to leave and then decide that they do want to leave, so that number changes, as well,” Blinken explained. “And still others since August 31 have come forward to identify themselves as American. So we’re going to continue this effort for as long as people want to leave.”
“This is an effort that will continue,” Blinken affirmed.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN Thursday that they are “in touch with a couple of hundred other US citizens who do not want to or are not currently ready to depart.”
“Today, we’re signing two new agreements that reflect our deepening collaboration on Afghanistan,” Blinken said. “The first establishes Qatar as the United States protecting power in Afghanistan. Qatar will establish a US intersection within its embassy in Afghanistan to provide certain consular services and monitor conditions security of US diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan.”
The second agreement will formalize the US partnership with Qatar “to facilitate the travel of Afghans with US Special Immigrant Visas, a role that it’s already been playing in many instances,” Blinken said, “and serve as a transit point for eligible Afghans as they complete their application process.”
The diplomatic compound in Kabul — once one of the largest US embassies in the world — has been shuttered since the US withdrawal in August, and the US relocated its diplomatic mission to Doha.
With no formal relations between the US and the Taliban, and no formal US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, Qatar will now act as the “protecting power” for Washington. Qatari embassy staff will serve in a new US interests’ section inside Gulf nation’s embassy.
The new US interests’ section will use some of the facilities vacated by the US Embassy in Kabul, an official confirmed to CNN, with Qatar providing security.
Reuters was first to report the new arrangement.
On Monday, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West told reporters that the US is “not seriously thinking about” reopening its embassy in Kabul at this time.
“I think what we want to see is the establishment of a record of responsible conduct by the Taliban, of predictable conduct, and then we’ll assess what needs we have on the diplomatic front,” he said during a briefing call.
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