Yet Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Monday that around 100 US citizens were still in Afghanistan – despite President Joe Biden’s pledge earlier this month that the United States would maintain a troop presence in the country. until all Americans who wanted to leave were evacuated. Biden then extended that commitment to America’s Afghan allies.
On Tuesday, Kirby told CNN in an interview that there was “a mixture of relief” at the Pentagon “that we were able to get everyone out safely in the last few hours” before the self-removal deadline. imposed by Biden on August 31.
“But there are also concerns, obviously, for those we couldn’t get out – that time and space and the security threat just wouldn’t allow us to reach,” Kirby added. “While we don’t think the numbers matter, we are obviously still concerned about our American allies and friends and fellow citizens who are still here.”
Pressed by the threat to the Americans left behind, Kirby said, “There is no doubt that the threat environment in Afghanistan remains high. And certainly, we are obviously concerned about the potential for retaliation from the Taliban in the future. And we are certainly – and we have seen it ourselves – aware of the threat IS-K continues to pose inside Afghanistan. ”
Thirteen US soldiers were killed and 18 were wounded last Thursday when ISIS militants detonated two bombs outside Kabul International Airport, claiming the most American casualties in Afghanistan since 2011. Au at least 169 Afghans were also killed in the attack.
The United States retaliated on Saturday with a drone strike that killed two ISIS-K operatives in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. Another US drone strike on Sunday destroyed a vehicle near Kabul airport that is believed to be filled with ISIS-K explosives, but the drone also reportedly killed 10 Afghan civilians. Later Sunday, the Pentagon foiled a five-fired rocket attack towards the airport.
While Kirby said on Tuesday that he had not “planned for a military role” in the evacuation of the remaining Americans in Afghanistan, he stressed that US officials “have other tools at our disposal as a government to to help the safe passage of Americans out of this or any other country. ” other country. It’s not entirely different from the way we try to move stranded, endangered or imperiled American citizens out of other countries of the world. “
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also told ABC News in an interview on Tuesday that the US effort to evacuate the remaining Americans had “shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission,” and he insisted that the United States wielded “considerable influence over the Taliban to ensure that any remaining American citizens could get out.”
Sullivan went on to praise the administration’s successful evacuation of “97 or 98%” of the total number of Americans in Afghanistan since August 14. Among those who were not evacuated, “we contacted [them] several times over the course of two weeks to come to the airport, to come to a rallying point, ”he added.
“The few that remain, we promise to get out,” Sullivan said. “And we will work by all diplomatic means available – with the enormous influence that we have and that the international community has – to make this happen.”