Blinken: US identified ‘relatively’ small number of Americans seeking to depart Mazar-i-Sharif

Blinken says the State Department is working with the Taliban to facilitate additional charter flights from Kabul for people seeking to leave Afghanistan after the American military and diplomatic departure.

It appeared to be the first time that the Biden administration confirmed that there were Americans at the airport after several reports that Taliban fighters had blocked Americans aboard six planes at the airport. Three Americans involved in the private evacuations blasted the State Department over the weekend for preventing the evacuation flights from leaving the country.

Blinken said it is his understanding that the Taliban has not prevented exit for anyone who presents proper documentation, the report said. He said he is unaware of any “hostage-type” situation at the airport. 

He said the Taliban have given assurances of safe passage for all seeking to leave Afghanistan with proper travel documents. He said the United States would hold the Taliban to that pledge.

“Blinken at presser in Doha effectively denied reports that Taliban was blocking Americans from departing via charter flights out of Mazar-i-Sharif but that some folks in the group without valid travel documents meant Taliban had not permitted the planes to depart,” Hümeyra Pamuk, a Reuters reporter tweeted.

Blinken said the United States believes there are “somewhere around 100” American citizens still in Afghanistan who want to leave. The State Department had previously put that estimate at between 100 and 200.

The Biden administration has been under increased pressure from both sides of the aisle for its post-withdrawal actions in the country.

David Rohde, the executive editor at NewYorker.com, said in an interview Monday that the White House and U.S. State Department have been holding up charter planes at the airport that would transport 19 Americans and 40 SIV holders to Albania.

Rohde told MSNBC that he got his information from Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s communications director. 

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“I want to repeat that,” he said. “It is the State Department and the White House” holding up the planes. He said the civilian effort has been “far more ambitious, far more dynamic and far more successful than what the administration has been doing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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