About 5,000 to 10,000 Americans are still ‘near Kabul’, Pentagon estimates


Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed how “wrenching” it is for US diplomats to watch what is unfolding in Afghanistan and assured them that the administration’s top priority is safely getting out the State Department team and Americans as well as doing everything possible to help Afghan partners, in a department-wide memo on Monday. 

“I want you to know that the President’s top priority is the safety of our team in Afghanistan and that of other American citizens. It’s mine, too. And we have the strongest, most capable military in the world by our side in that effort,” Blinken wrote to the State Department workforce. “We’re also committed to doing everything we can to help Afghan partners who have worked with us over the last twenty years. We have a duty to take care of the people who have taken care of us, in Afghanistan and around the world.”

Blinken lauded the work US diplomats have done in the country, despite the fact that their efforts may all be eroded as the Taliban take over control of the country.

“In that time, you did what American diplomats everywhere do: you carried out the mission and worked to advance our interests and values, all while building lasting relationships with the country and its people,” Blinken said.

He specifically thanked the US diplomats who remain in Afghanistan.

“Nobody is working harder on this than our team in Kabul. Under tremendous pressure, they’ve performed with professionalism, courage, and grace. We’ve asked so much of them, and they’ve consistently exceeded it,” he said. 

But US diplomats have grown increasingly frustrated by how the Biden administration handled the US withdrawal from the country. 

“Home. Angry,” said one who just returned from Afghanistan.

Two other US diplomats who served in Afghanistan said the chaos could have been averted, or at least mitigated, if action had been taken sooner to get people out. While the Biden National Security Council has a lot of meetings, the diplomats said, it doesn’t make many rapid decisions – and in this situation, they believe, valuable time was lost. 

Blinken said that even as the situation in Afghanistan unfolds, US diplomats are busy at work globally, and he thanked them for how they continue to carry out their work.