‘Not likely’ US will have an ‘on-the-ground diplomatic presence’ in Kabul: Blinken

WASHINGTON DC (Agencies): Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that it is “not likely” the U.S. will have an “on-the-ground diplomatic presence” in Afghanistan on September 1st, but vowed that the Biden administration will continue to help those who want to evacuate the country past Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline.

“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 told NBC’s Chuck Todd 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.

When pressed on how the U.S. will help evacuate more at-risk Afghans, Blinken declined to go into detail but said that officials are working with the international community to make sure that the Taliban makes good on a promise to allow Afghans who have proper documentation to leave the country past the end of August.

“We have more than 100 countries, 114 countries who signed onto a statement we initiated making clear the international community expects the Taliban to make good on a commitment to let people continue to leave the country after August 31st,” Blinken said, acknowledging that the U.S. did not take the Taliban at their word but by their actions.

“That freedom of travel is essential to the international community’s expectations of the Taliban going forward. And working with other countries very closely, we’re going to make sure that we put in place the means to do that. An airport that functions, other ways of leaving the country, all of that is what we’re working on in the days ahead,” Blinken added. Blinken said that the Biden administration has “significant leverage” to ensure that the Taliban make good on their commitments to allow people to exit Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.

“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 on ABC’s “This Week.”

“So, that is a clear expectation across the entire world, across the entire international community. Third, we have very significant leverage to work with over the weeks and months ahead to incentivize the Taliban to make good on its commitments,” he added, without providing specifics.

Blinken also noted that a senior Taliban official had said during a television interview that Afghans would be allowed to leave the country past the Aug. 31 deadline.

“Now you’re telling me we should trust what the Taliban said?” co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked.

“I’m not saying that Martha. I’m not saying we should trust the Taliban on anything. I’m simply repo-rting what one of their senior leaders said to the Afg-han people,” Blinken said.

Blinken also explained that the international community is looking to the Taliban to make good on its promises, though some have viewed the possibility that the insurgent group will ensure that its civilians will be able to leave the country with skepticism.

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