Biden administration officials say the United States has the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave before President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline.
That commitment comes as another U.S. drone strike against suspected Islamic State militants highlights the grave threat in the war’s final days. The evacuation flow of Americans kept pace even as a new State Department security alert, issued hours before the latest military action, instructed people to leave the airport area immediately “due to a specific, credible threat.”
Many at-risk Afghans, however, still are struggling to get into the Kabul airport, while many thousands of other Afghans already have been flown to safety in 12 days of round-the-clock flights. On Wednesday, several of the Americans working phones and pulling strings to get out former Afghan colleagues, women’s advocates, journalists and other vulnerable Afghans said they have seen little concrete U.S. action so far to get those Afghans past Taliban checkpoints and through U.S-controlled airport gates to promised evacuation flights.
“It’s 100% up to the Afghans to take these risks and try to fight their way out,” said Sunil Varghese, policy director with the International Refugee Assistance Project. Blinken, echoing Biden’s earlier declarations during the now 12-day-old evacuation, emphasized at a State Department briefing that “evacuating Americans is our top priority.” He added, “We’re also committed to getting out as many Afghans at-risk as we can before the 31st,” when Biden plans to pull out the last of thousands of American troops.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BOSTON GLOBE