CIA Is Helping Extract Americans From Kabul

Blinken says 1.5K Americans are still in the country
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2021 4:39 PM CDT
CIA Is Helping Extract Americans From Kabul
In this image provided by the US Air Force, ir Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.   (Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/U.S. Air Force via AP)

There are still around 1,500 American citizens left in Afghanistan—not including the thousands of troops involved in the evacuation mission—and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says the US is doing all it can to get them out. Blinken said Wednesday that diplomats are in direct contact with around 500 of the US citizens, who have been told how to get to Kabul's airport safely, and the US is "aggressively reaching out" to the others to determine whether they want to get out of the country, the Hill reports. He said some may have already left the country and the number "actively seeking assistance” to leave Afghanistan is "likely significantly lower" than 1,000, reports the AP.

Officials tell the Wall Street Journal that the CIA has launched missions with the military to extract Americans and Afghans with special visas from locations in Kabul and beyond. The officials say ground troops and military helicopters have been used in the missions, some of which have been joint operations with allies. Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban has agreed to allow Americans and at-risk Afghans to leave the country after the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, the BBC reports. "The Taliban, whether we like it or not, are largely in control of the country," Blinken told reporters. "It's important to work with them to ensure the departure of all those that want to leave." On Tuesday, the Taliban said it would block the departure of Afghans.

Allies including France say they are now racing against time to get their citizens and other evacuees out of the country before Aug. 31. Analyst Patricia Lewis the practical deadline is now just a couple of days away. "There’s a huge amount of stuff that has to be done, including getting all the people out who are doing the job and all the equipment," Lewis tells the AP, adding that "all of the allies are highly dependent on the US for military cover, particularly air cover," so their missions are likely to end when the US starts packing up. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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