The United States had managed to evacuate about 6,000 Americans when the last C-17 military transport took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul shortly before midnight on 30 August.
Since then, the U.S. State Department has helped facilitate the departure of about 380 U.S. citizens from Afghanistan, according to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
He said the United States is now ready to finish the job.
“As of November 10,” Blinken said, “all U.S. citizens who have requested assistance from the U.S. government to leave Afghanistan, which we have identified as ready to travel and have the necessary travel documents, have been given the opportunity to do it. .”
With no embassy in Kabul to deal with the evacuees, the United States has been forced to turn to its allies for help.
Qatar has answered the call.
As reported in Newsweek, Blinken appeared in a joint press conference on Friday with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to announce that the Qatar embassy in Kabul will house a US “interest department” to act as an intermediary between the United States and the Taliban.
An important part of this communication will be to speed up the departure of those Americans who are back in Afghanistan and who want to travel. Of the hundreds of Americans who remain, about 200 are estimated to seek evacuation.
At Friday’s press conference, Blinken said that all identified Americans in Afghanistan had been contacted and offered the chance to return home.
While trying to fulfill President Biden’s promise to leave “no one behind”, Blinken and the rest of the State Department are being pressured by Republicans to bring home all Americans left in the country after chaotic evacuations left hundreds stranded at the end of August.
Due to limited direct communication with the Taliban government, the State Department has sparse information about the exact whereabouts of Americans still in Afghanistan. It continues to receive requests from citizens and allies whose presence in the country was previously unknown, suggesting the disparate access to communications across the country.
Blinken said the situation for the remaining Americans may change, further complicating the State Department’s mission.
“Some people who have identified themselves as Americans nevertheless say they do not want to travel because their families, extended families, are in Afghanistan and they want to continue to stay there,” Blinken said. “Others change their minds and have told us that they do not want to leave and then decide that they want to leave, so that number changes as well. And still others since August 31 have come forward to identify themselves as Americans. “
These factors present unique challenges for a department that wants to return as many Americans home as possible. Despite these obstacles, however, Blinken remains steadfast in its promise to return all Americans who want to return home.
Strengthening relations with foreign partners such as Qatar may be crucial to fulfilling this promise.
At Friday’s joint press conference, Blinken praised Qatar’s role in dealing with the aftermath of the Afghan government’s collapse and praised their continued support for facilitating the evacuations.
“Events in Afghanistan have strengthened our partnership,” he said. “Many countries have stepped up to help the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no country has done more than Qatar.”
Qatar, a key ally in the region, has been a valuable mediator for communications between the Taliban and the United States, a role that must continue if the United States hopes to maintain its identification and evacuation efforts.
Commenting on this new alliance, Al-Thani said, “The strategic dialogue today will reaffirm our commitment to deepening our cooperation in various areas, including strengthening our defense and security partnership.”
Maintaining these open lines of communication is crucial to identifying, relocating and defending Americans who are still back in Afghanistan.
“We have excluded Afghan families and US service members all the time and it will continue,” Blinken said. “And as we identify people who are in Afghanistan, including family members of service members who stay there and want to leave, we will do everything we can to get them out.”