Sullivan’s message is on par with President Joe Biden’s vow on Friday to evacuate all Afghan allies of the U.S. who are seeking protection from the Taliban. In that same address, Biden indicated he may be willing to expand the U.S. military presence in the city of Kabul beyond just the international airport, where all evacuations are taking place.
Biden also said last week he would extend his self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline for pulling all troops out of Afghanistan if the evacuation operations were not yet completed.
Sullivan didn’t say how many Afghans still needed to be evacuated from the country. He also declined to give a precise number for how many Americans and legal permanent residents are currently awaiting evacuation in Afghanistan, but said, “We believe it is several thousand Americans who we are working with now to try to get safely out of the country.”
He added that the Biden administration has been in contact with “a few thousand Americans” and is “communicating with them by email, by telephone, by text message” to try to get them safely to the airport in Kabul and out of the country.
“We’ve already spoken with nearly all of them over past 24, 48 hours. We’ll be making a plan for you to come to the airport, and we have secured the capacity to get large numbers of Americans safe passage through to the airport and onto the air field,” Sullivan said. “The goal here is to move people as rapidly and safely and efficiently as possible. That’s what we’re doing.”
He also said the Biden administration is taking the threat of a potential ISIS attack on the Kabul airport and its surroundings “absolutely deadly seriously,” and that they are talking with the Taliban through military channels to ensure safe passage of Americans and Afghans to the airport.
“Our effort is with the Taliban military commanders currently in charge of security in Kabul because they need to understand that Americans and those who have worked with us need safe passage to the airport. And if that passage is disrupted or operations are interfered with, the United States will deliver a swift and forceful response,” Sullivan said.