Following the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan of US forces, few Americans have been able to leave Afghanistan, with the Taliban's cooperation with US leadership appears to wan.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that the State Department has "pulled every lever available" to get Americans out of Afghanistan, but the Taliban are still grounding flights out of the Mazar-i-Sharif airport.
"Sorry, what is the problem in Mazar? What's the hold-up? Is it the same issue? I mean, we talked about documentation; you guys said that it wasn't an acceptable reason, given the circumstances, to hold the flights. And then just nothing?" the reporter asked.
"We have been very clear that the individuals who have expressed a desire and a willingness to leave via Mazar-e-Sharif should be allowed to leave the country. There – the fact that to my knowledge a charter flight has not departed Mazar has nothing to do with anything that the State Department has or has not done, and in fact, quite the contrary," Price said.
"The State Department, as we have said, has pulled every lever available to us," he said. "We have gone to extraordinary lengths with not only our engagement with the Taliban, but also with these other constellations of groups on the ground and operating from afar, and also with countries in the region. And to our minds, these flights, these individuals, there is no reason they should not be able to depart. And that's what we're continuing to focus on."
"I wanted to ask if there have been any movement on the flights out of Mazar. A week ago the Secretary said, quote, 'Those flights need to move,'" a reporter asked price. "And also the Secretary had said State would be coordinating with veterans groups who are doing their own evacuation and extraction efforts. Has that been formalized? And if so, what does that look like now?"
Price said that "veterans groups have played an important and welcome role in this, but other advocacy groups, humanitarian groups, lawmakers, NGOs, private companies, media organizations, a constellation of actors have come to the support of the people of Afghanistan," but admitted that flights containing Americans are still grounded.
"I am not aware that any international flights, charter flights or otherwise, have left Mazar-e-Sharif. Of course, we have had a couple charter flights from Kabul International Airport that departed last week, including with U.S. citizens on board," he said.
Price assured that discussions with the Taliban have been "ongoing" and "pragmatic," with a focus on evacuations of remaining US citizens.
"We intend to hold them to the privates and public commitments they have made to allow our citizens into allow those to whom we have a special commitment to leave the country," Price said on negotiations.