“We have about 300 American citizens left who have indicated to us that they want to leave. We are very actively working to help them get to the airport, get on a plane, and get out of Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden’s top diplomat said during an ABC News interview on Sunday.
After meeting with Biden and other White House officials on Saturday, Blinken said that U.S. officials are making significant attempts to get the remaining Americans out of Afghanistan, coming two weeks after the Taliban took over the country after a blistering offensive that lasted only days.
Biden and other officials set an Aug. 31 deadline for all troops to leave Afghanistan, raising questions about whether the administration can successfully evacuate any remaining Americans in the country by that time.
On Saturday, meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued warnings to Americans to get away from the airport due to an imminent attack, ostensibly from alleged ISIS terrorists. Days before that, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack that left 13 U.S. military service members and scores more dead at the airport.
Several U.S. Central Command spokesmen confirmed to news outlets on Sunday that airstrikes were carried out against a suspected terrorist who was driving an explosives-laden vehicle to the airport.
Noting the heightened terrorist threat, Blinken added to ABC News that the “risk is very high” for another attack at the Kabul airport.
“This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission, these last couple of days,” he told the news outlet. “And so, we will do everything possible to keep people safe. But the risk is very high.”
During the pullout, the Biden administration has received significant bipartisan backlash over his handling of the evacuations and for failing to predict that the Taliban would take control over the country, including Kabul, in just a matter of days. Some have also questioned statements made by Biden and his top deputies that U.S. officials are working with, and even reportedly sharing intelligence with, the Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group by several federal agencies.
Blinken on Sunday, however, said that the United States has “significant leverage” over the Taliban “to make good on its commitments.”
“If the Taliban is serious about the commitments that it’s repeatedly made in public, including nationally, across the country, as well as in private—commitments that the international community intends to hold the Taliban to—then we’ll find ways to do it,” Blinken said.