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Blinken: US expects Taliban won’t seal off country after August 31

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday he expects the Taliban will continue to allow people to leave Afghanistan after Aug. 31.

Speaking to Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week,” Blinken said, “114 countries have made very clear that it is their expectation that the Taliban will permit freedom of travel going past Aug. 31. So, that is a clear expectation across the entire world, across the entire international community.”

Discussing fears that the Taliban will essentially seal off the country, Blinken said the U.S. is “making sure that we have in place all of the necessary tools and means to facilitate the travel for those who seek to leave Afghanistan after Aug. 31.”

Blinken was addressing the question of whether there was any hope that any remaining Americans and some allies of the United States still within Afghanistan — particularly those who helped the U.S. during the 20 years American forces have been in the country — would have a chance to leave the country if they can’t get to the airport in Kabul by Aug. 31, when the ongoing international evacuation is supposed to end.

“We’ve been very actively planning,” Blinken said, “for what would be necessary to keep the airport functioning, either to have it function right — immediately after the 31st or if necessary to take the steps required to reopen in a timely fashion, working with countries in the region who are very interested in helping.

“The Taliban have a strong interest in having an airport that functions, the Afghan people have a strong interest in an airport that functions, the entire international community has that interest.”

Blinken said the loss of 13 Americans killed Thursday during an attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport would continue to be deeply felt.

“We couldn’t do our jobs as diplomats in any place around the world without the Marines and, of course, we certainly could not have done the job that’s been done in Kabul without these extraordinary men and women, including the 13 who gave their lives a couple of days ago. So I just wanted to share with you and others how deeply we feel this, especially at the State Department,” he said.

In an interview that immediately followed Blinken’s, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) repeatedly denounced Blinken, President Joe Biden and the administration for relying on “happy talk.”

“It was a disgusting revelation of yet again no plan,” Sasse said of Blinken’s interview.

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