US looking at land routes to continue Afghanistan evacuations

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the Biden administration is engaged in “ongoing intensive diplomatic work” to help US citizens and Afghan allies wishing to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

“We are looking at all possible options – air routes, land routes to continue to find ways for them to help evacuate and to support them in that,” she said during a news briefing.

Nuland welcomed efforts by Qatar and Turkey to reopen the airport in Kabul in coordination with the Taliban. “They have relatively optimistic projections about when that will happen, but we need to see it happen obviously,” she told reporters.

She said the administration’s “top priority” is to get the 100 to 200 remaining US citizens out of the country.

Nuland declined to share details about the possible land routes to minimise potential risks for people who may have to take them.

Also, on Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington fully backs efforts to reopen the airport in Kabul, which he said would allow US citizens to leave Afghanistan and enable the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“The Turks and the Qataris together with forces on the ground are working as quickly as they can to reopen the civilian airport,” he said. “This is an endeavour that we continue to support in every way we can because we believe it is important for our own interests.”

The US officially announced the end of its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan on Monday after evacuating more than 120,000 people, including 6,000 American citizens, since mid-August.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” President Joe Biden said on Tuesday in defence of the withdrawal. “The decision to end the military lift operations at Kabul airport was based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers.”

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