President Biden’s State Department repeatedly touted its evacuation efforts Friday while offering vague assurances for when individuals who remained in Afghanistan before and after the Aug. 31 withdrawal date.
Spokesperson Ned Price was asked what message the department had for individuals who feared they might be killed while they wait to evacuate the country.
“We have brought to safety, with our partners, more than 100,000 individuals,” said Price. “Many of these individuals were precisely in that position – fearing that were they to have stayed behind they could be subject to intimidation, to violence, or worse … that is why we have worked so assiduously, together with our partners, to effect this evacuation – the results of which speak for themselves.”
Price added that the U.S. government had a special obligation to a subset of people seeking to leave Afghanistan (e.g. American citizens).
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He also declined to provide an estimate of the number of people who would be left in Afghanistan after the Aug. 31 withdrawal date, adding that Afghans will experience a “time of great fear.”
“It’s a difficult question because look, we have evacuated more than 110,000 people so far. But we have always sought to be clear about this, and sought not to sugarcoat what will be a time of great uncertainty, a time of great fear, a time of concern for many Afghans.”
He added that the State Department would maintain a “firm” commitment to assist American citizens, SIVs, and others after Aug. 31. Some of their disposition, he said, relied on the Taliban’s willingness to provide safe passage and its interest in maintaining a functional airport.
Price was also asked what people should do if they’re still in Afghanistan on Sept. 1.
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“It’s hard to be categorical,” said Price, “because we will have different messaging for people in different categories.”
“Again, we have a special commitment to American citizens. It is precisely why we have urged them for months and months now to leave the country. It is precisely why in the context of the security environment that we are undertaking an unprecedented evacuation to see to it that we can bring them to safety.”