In an interview on Sunday, the Biden administration’s top diplomat said an “on-the-ground diplomatic presence” is not likely after the Taliban took over Kabul just over two weeks ago, but he vowed that the administration will attempt to evacuate Americans who are trying to leave the country.
“First, in terms of having an on-the-ground diplomatic presence on September 1st, that’s not likely to happen. But what is going to happen is that our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by September 1st, that endures,” Blinken said during an interview on “Meet The Press.”
“There’s no deadline on that effort. And we have ways, we have mechanisms to help facilitate the ongoing departure of people from Afghanistan if they choose to leave,” Blinken continued.
The Biden administration earlier this summer self-imposed an Aug. 31 deadline for the full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, pushing back the date from May 1, which was negotiated by the Taliban and the Trump administration last year.
In another Sunday interview with ABC News, Blinken further stipulated at the United States has “significant leverage” over the Taliban to ensure the group—designated by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies as a terrorist group—makes good on its commitments.
“One hundred fourteen countries have made very clear that it is their expectation that the Taliban will permit freedom of travel going past August 31st,” Blinken said during the program.
Noting that the global community expects the Taliban to comply, “we have very significant leverage to work with over the weeks and months ahead to incentivize the Taliban to make good on its commitments,” Blinken said. He didn’t go into details.
Since the Taliban took over in mid-August, President Joe Biden has taken considerable criticism from both Republican and Democrat members of Congress and the media, who have accused him of mishandling the pullout and evacuation. Biden and other administration officials have also been flagged for providing conflicting information about the situation on the ground, namely at the Kabul airport.
During the pullout and military mission in Kabul, administration officials have said they’ve coordinated and spoken with senior Taliban members in a move that also raised significant questions.
“I’m not saying we should trust the Taliban on anything,” Blinken said during the ABC interview. “I’m simply reporting what one of their senior leaders said to the Afghan people.”
The Pentagon said that U.S. officials on Monday are still working to evacuate Americans and Afghan civilians from Kabul after a fatal terrorist bombing at the airport and rockets being fired in that direction on Monday.