White House says Taliban ‘cooperative’ in facilitating departure of Americans
The White House confirmed Thursday that a charter flight from Afghanistan carrying U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents landed safely in Qatar and that the Taliban was “cooperative” in facilitating their departure.
“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement, referring to Kabul’s international airport. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.”
“We will continue these efforts to facilitate the safe and orderly travel of American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans who worked for us and wish to leave Afghanistan,” Horne continued. “Because there is an ongoing terrorist threat to operations of this nature, we will not be sharing details of these efforts before people are safely out of the country.”
The White House did not provide a specific number of Americans who were on the flight but said the Biden administration would do so after officials check flight manifests.
“The plane just landed and what we want to do is check all of the manifests on the ground and ensure that we have the accurate number for all of you, we’ll have that number out from the State Department shortly this afternoon,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during an afternoon press briefing.
The flight reportedly carried 113 Americans, U.S. permanent residents and western passport holders to Qatar.
The flight represented the first large-scale air departure of Americans from Afghanistan since U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. U.S. and coalition forces evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan before the withdrawal ended. According to the White House, more than 6,000 American citizens and U.S. permanent residents have been evacuated. The Biden administration worked with the Taliban to facilitate the departure of thousands of Americans and Afghans last month after the Afghan government fell to the insurgent group.
When U.S. forces departed Afghanistan, officials estimated there were between 100 and 200 Americans left in Afghanistan who wanted to get out, despite President Biden’s earlier pledge to leave forces in until all Americans were evacuated. As of Wednesday, the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan was about 100, according to Psaki.
There have been ongoing concerns about the ability of Americans and Afghans who assisted U.S. forces to exit Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Taliban to allow charter evacuation flights to depart, after lawmakers expressed concerns that the Taliban was blocking Americans and Afghan allies trying to leave the country.
Psaki touted the success of Thursday’s flight and said that the Biden administration “wanted to note that the Taliban was cooperative in facilitating the departure of these American citizens and legal permanent residents from HKIA.”
“We promised we would get American citizens out, we promised we would get legal permanent residents out, we promised we would get our afghan partners out and we promised we would press the Taliban to get them out and that’s exactly what we did,” Psaki said.