independent– Secretary of State Antony Blinken was challenged by a reporter over the US-employed Afghan staff who feel “completely betrayed” at being left stranded in the country.
Andrea Mitchell of NBC News said that many local staff employed by the US Embassy in Kabul have been prevented from reaching the city’s international airport because of Taliban checkpoints.
“We evacuated our embassy and there have been cables back that I know you must be familiar with, or your teams are, of people who feel completely betrayed,” she said
“And these are thousands of people that we rely on in embassies around the world. The message is going forward that we will not be loyal. They were not told about the evacuation. They were not put on those choppers with our American staff.”
Mitchell also asked America’s top diplomat to defend a withdrawal that has left behind “all the millions of Afghan women who have told their daughters and been raised under this promise of a future, which the Taliban are already … are denied.”
Mr Blinken said that there were 1,500 Americans who had not yet been evacuated from Afghanistan.
And there are also tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for special immigration visas waiting to be put on flights out of the country.
“First, of the 82,000 plus people who so far have been evacuated, about 45-46 percent have been women and children and we’ve been intensely focused, particularly on making sure that we can get women at risk out of harm’s way,” he replied.
“Second, with regard to women and other Afghans at risk going forward, we will use, I will use every diplomatic, economic, political and assistance tool at my disposal working closely with allies and partners that feel the same way to do everything possible to uphold their basic rights.
“And that’s going to be a relentless focus of our actions going forward.”
And he insisted the US was “relentlessly focussed on getting the locally-employed staff out of Afghanistan, out of harm’s way.”
“Nothing is more important to me as secretary of state than to do right by the people who have been working side-by-side with American diplomats in our embassy,” he said.