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Biden administration pledges ‘safe passage’ for Americans in Afghanistan after withdrawal deadline

By Chandelis Duster, CNN

The Biden administration is committed to a “safe passage” of Americans and Afghans who helped the US government after the withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.

“August 31st is not a cliff. After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage for American citizens, legal permanent residents and the Afghan allies who have travel documentation to come to the United States,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “We will use that leverage to the maximum extent and we will work with the rest of the international community to make sure the Taliban does not falter on these commitments.”

Sullivan’s comments come as the US drawdown of troops from the country continues ahead of Tuesday’s deadline and as evacuations continue at a slower pace. Evacuation efforts are also hampered by possible threats from ISIS-K after a terrorist attack killed 13 US service members and at least 170 others outside the airport on Thursday.

The US State Department, along with governments from numerous other countries across the globe, released a statement at midday Sunday saying they will hold the Taliban to their promises that they will allow people to leave the country after Tuesday.

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan,” the statement said in part.

Roughly 250 Americans who are attempting to leave Afghanistan remain in the country, according to new figures from a State Department spokesperson on Sunday. About 50 evacuations have taken place in the last day, bringing the total number of American citizens evacuated to 5,500.

“Our team on the ground continues to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that the Biden administration is still working to evacuate American citizens from Afghanistan who have indicated to the US that they want to leave. He also said the US will not have a diplomatic presence in the country after Tuesday, adding that the administration will remain engaged diplomatically in the region but that reopening the embassy in Kabul will depend on the Taliban’s behavior “in the weeks and months ahead.”

“We’re also working very closely with dozens of countries that are similarly situated that have a strong interest in making sure that people can continue to have freedom of travel to leave Afghanistan if they choose,” he said. “And working in close collaboration with those countries, we’re going to find ways to ensure that freedom of travel is meaningful.”

Earlier Sunday, the White House had announced that about 2,900 people had been evacuated from Kabul from 3 a.m. ET Saturday to 3 a.m. ET Sunday. Those evacuations were carried out by 32 US military flights that carried approximately 2,200 evacuees and nine coalition flights that carried 700 people.

The US has evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of about 111,900 people overall since August 14, according to a White House official.

This story has been updated with further developments.

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CNN’s Jason Hoffman and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

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