National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the Biden administration is committed to ensuring the “safe passage” of Americans and Afghans who assisted the US government after the withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan.
“August 31st is not a cliff. After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage for American citizens, legal permanent residents and the Afghan allies who have travel documentation to come to the United States,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “We will use that leverage to the maximum extent and we will work with the rest of the international community to make sure the Taliban does not falter on these commitments.”
Sullivan’s remarks come as the United States continues to withdraw troops from the country ahead of a deadline on Tuesday, and evacuations are slowing down. After a terrorist attack killed 13 US service members and injured at least 170 others outside the airport on Thursday, evacuation efforts have been hampered by possible threats from ISIS-K.
At midday Sunday, the US State Department, along with governments from a number of other countries, issued a statement saying they will hold the Taliban to their promises to allow people to leave the country after Tuesday.
“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan,” the statement said in part.
According to new figures released by a State Department spokesperson on Sunday, approximately 250 Americans who are attempting to leave Afghanistan are still in the country. In the last day, about 50 Americans have been evacuated, bringing the total number of Americans evacuated to 5,500.
“Our team on the ground continues to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
During an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration is still working to evacuate American citizens from Afghanistan who have expressed a desire to leave. He also stated that the US will have no diplomatic presence in the country after Tuesday, but that the administration will remain diplomatically engaged in the region. He also stated that reopening the embassy in Kabul will be contingent on the Taliban’s behavior “in the weeks and months ahead.”