The US lauded the Taliban on Thursday for being businesslike and cooperative in organising the first American evacuation from Afghanistan since the US military withdrew.
According to National Security Council spokesman Emily Horne, the departure from Kabul to Doha on a chartered Qatar Airways flight on Thursday was “a promising first step” with the new leadership.
She claimed in a statement that “The Taliban have been co-operative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA,” referring to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“They have shown flexibility, and they have been business-like and professional in our dealings with them in this effort.”
In a tweet late Thursday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated that over 40 US citizens or permanent residents were invited to join the flight, but only 21 did.
“Of course we would like to see more such flights,” he had said earlier. “We have heard public statements that more, in fact, may be forthcoming.”
After President Joe Biden terminated the 20-year military deployment in August, the US had previously stated that a little more than 100 Americans were believed to remain in Afghanistan.
Price stated that the majority of Americans who remained had ties to Afghanistan and had to make “heartbreaking” decisions about whether or not to go, but that they did not have to make that decision immediately.
“This opportunity doesn’t expire if they turn it down one day, if they change their mind the next or even next year,” Price said.
In the final two weeks of the war, a round-the-clock airlift transported over 123 000 people, including the majority of Americans in Afghanistan.
Horne said the US “facilitated” Thursday’s departure of Americans from Afghanistan and thanked Qatar for its role in the effort.
“We have been working intensely” to ensure the safe departure, and the flight is the result of “careful and hard diplomacy and engagement”, she said.
The trip comes just two days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Qatar, which serves as a transit point for over half of the Afghans who left Kabul.
Biden and his administration have been chastised for putting American lives in the hands of the Taliban.
The Qatari flight was praised by Representative Mike Waltz and Senator Lindsey Graham, both ardent Republican critics of the withdrawal.
But they added in a joint statement that “it was inexcusable that the Biden administration allowed a terrorist regime to dictate the terms of allowing Americans to leave on their own with their families.”
“The United States does not take orders from terrorists,” they said.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration negotiated an agreement with the Taliban to pull troops out of Afghanistan and halted efforts to allow Afghan allies to immigrate to the United States.