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‘US to ensure Americans, partners can leave Afghanistan beyond Aug 31’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington would work to ensure Americans and Afghan partners could leave Afghanistan beyond the planned August 31 deadline for the ongoing evacuation from Kabul.

President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that his administration aimed to complete the evacuation by August 31, while asking for contingency plans to adjust the timeline if necessary, reports Xinhua news agency.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Blinken said that there was no deadline on the work to help Americans and those Afghan partners who remained in the country to leave.

“That effort will continue every day past August 31,” he said.

“We will use every diplomatic, economic assistance tool at our disposal, working hand-in-hand with the international community, first and foremost to ensure that those who want to leave Afghanistan after the 31st are able to do so,” Blinken said when asked about steps to take to assure “high-risk Afghans” would not be left behind after the US military withdrawal.

The Secretary of State noted that the Taliban had made “public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans, for third-country nationals, and Afghans at risk going forward past August 31”.

However, the latest statement from the Taliban showed they might be unwilling to cooperate with Washington on this issue.

“We are not in favour of Afghans to leave, we are not happy with departure of Afghans,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday.

“The crowds have not been cleared outside the airport. We want the Americans to bring changes in their policy of encouraging Afghans to leave.”

The US has been scrambling to evacuate Americans and its Afghan partners from the country since the Taliban captured the capital Kabul on August 15.

Blinken said during Wednesday’s briefing that at least 4,500 US citizens had been evacuated since August 14, with approximately 1,500 Americans remain in the country.

According to Blinken, about 500 have been contacted with instructions on how to reach the airport, and not all of the rest 1,000 Americans are seeking to leave Afghanistan.

He said some of them might already leave the country, some may want to stay, and some may not actually be US citizens.

Blinken said that around 19,000 people had been evacuated during the 24-hour period ending early Wednesday morning.

In total, over 82,300 people had been flown out of Kabul since August 14.