Stranded in Afghanistan

Transcript and video of the State Department’s September 15 press briefing are posted here. This exchange with department spokesman Ned Price is worthy of note:

QUESTION: I wanted to ask if there have been any movement on the flights out of Mazar. A week ago [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] said, quote, “Those flights need to move.” And also the Secretary had said State would be coordinating with veterans groups who are doing their own evacuation and extraction efforts. Has that been formalized? And if so, what does that look like now?

MR PRICE: So when it comes to the various groups – and certainly veterans groups have played an important and welcome role in this, but other advocacy groups, humanitarian groups, lawmakers, NGOs, private companies, media organizations, a constellation of actors have come to the support of the people of Afghanistan. And that is certainly something that this department is playing a leading role in coordinating. I can tell you not a day goes by, not an hour goes by, I would venture to guess not a minute goes by that many of us are in touch with individuals who are outside of the U.S. Government who are helping to coordinate these efforts. And there is a lot of activity focused on the potential for charter flights out of Mazar-e-Sharif.

I am not aware that any international flights, charter flights or otherwise, have left Mazar-e-Sharif. Of course, we have had a couple charter flights from Kabul International Airport that departed last week, including with U.S. citizens onboard. I know that the Turks and the Qataris, and if you listen to what the Taliban are saying publicly, the Taliban as well want to see not only charter flights, but normal commercial activity resumed at Kabul International Airport on an expedited basis. And it’s our hope that that will be able to happen in the not-too-distant future so that in addition to the charter flights that our Qatari partners have very generously administered to date, there will be additional options for individuals to leave from Kabul International Airport. So we will continue to work on this, just as we continue to work on these overland routes as well.

Sugarcoated with public relations on behalf of the Taliban, Price’s lengthy response obfuscates the answer. I think it can be translated as “things look bad now, but we have hope for the future.” On a related note, Jim Geraghty reports that “The Taliban Are Hunting Down Any Afghan Tied to Western Organizations.”

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