The U.S. State Department on Sunday outlined what they believe is the most effective way for Americans stranded in Kabul to reach the Afghan capital’s airport in order to get an evacuation flight home.
In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said making direct contact and providing guidance to U.S. citizens traveling toward Hamid Karzai International Airport on their own and board an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan is the “safest and most effective way” to get every American who wants to leave the South Asian nation safely transported to U.S.-held grounds.
“The best way, the most effective way, the way I’m focused on to get folks in, again, is to be in direct contact with them and to help guide them and to give them instructions on where to go, when to go there, and then we can bring them into the airport safely and effectively,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s message is in accordance with the U.S. State Department, which announced last week they don’t have the capability to transport “large numbers” of Americans to Kabul’s airport and instead advises them to make the trip themselves—unless they think it’s “unsafe” to do so.
“I do not have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a Pentagon press briefing on Aug. 18. “We don’t have the capability to go and collect up large numbers of people.”
Blinken stressed during the same interview that President Joe Biden and Austin have already been clear that they will do whatever it takes to get every U.S. citizen out of the beleaguered country and out of harm’s way.
Biden, who has drawn criticism from defense experts for his turbulent handling of the chaotic U.S. evacuations, addressed during a press briefing on Aug. 22 the U.S.-led evacuation of Americans, at-risk Afghans, and others from the Kabul airport picked up speed this weekend, although it remains vulnerable to threats posed by the designated terrorist group.
Speaking at the White House, Biden said 11,000 people had been airlifted from Kabul in a 36-hour period this weekend, but he did not provide details. Blinken also confirmed on Aug. 22 that 8,000 people were evacuated out of Afghanistan over the last 24 hours, with a total of 30,000 people since the operation efforts started in July.
The number appeared to include flights by charter, which were activated by the Biden administration to speed up evacuations, and non-U.S. military aircraft as well as the U.S. Air Force C-17 and C-130 transport planes that have been flying daily from the capital.
Tens of thousands of people remain at or near the airport to join airlifts out of Afghanistan, which has been slowed by security issues and U.S. bureaucracy hurdles.
“We’re moving people out as quickly as we can from inside the airport and out of Afghanistan to alleviate crowding in the airport so we can get more people in from the outside and alleviate some of the crowding outside,” Blinken told CBS.
“We’ve seen these wrenching scenes of people crowded at the gates, of people hurt, people killed,” he added. “It’s an incredibly volatile situation, and we’re very focused on that.”
Biden said his administration is hoping evacuations will end by the self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. The Taliban warned the U.S. on Monday that some sort of action will be taken if full withdrawal from Afghanistan is not completed by the self-imposed deadline.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.