Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered remarks on Afghanistan at a press briefing conducted at Foggy Bottom yesterday. He even took a few questions from friendly State Department reporters (although MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell — not a State Department reporter — asked a critical question that stood out from the rest). The State Department has posted its own video and official transcript here.
Blinken discussed the evacuation of Americans from the country and the department’s calculation of the relevant numbers. The numbers conflicted with a briefing for Senate staff earlier in the day, but they are in any event “dynamic calculations” characterized by “fluidity” (to borrow the terms Blinken himself used).
As conveyed in his remarks, the department’s efforts are a great success. He concluded regarding the numbers: “Thus, from this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.”
One can read Blinken’s remarks as blaming Americans who remain stranded, whatever their number. He doesn’t acknowledge the possible difficulties of getting to Kabul for Americans who may be spread around the country.
Although Blinken put a positive face on the department’s efforts, he is necessarily aware of the humiliation involved in our utter dependence on the Taliban:
We’re operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with the very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack. We’re taking every precaution, but this is very high-risk.
As the President said yesterday, we’re on track to complete our mission by August 31st provided the Taliban continue to cooperate and there are no disruptions to this effort. The President has also asked for contingency plans in case he determines that we must remain in the country past that date. But let me be crystal-clear about this: There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so, along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so. That effort will continue every day past August 31st.
The Taliban have made public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans, for third-country nationals, and Afghans at risk going forward past August 31st. The United States, our allies and partners, and more than half of the world’s countries – 114 in all – issued a statement making it clear to the Taliban that they have a responsibility to hold to that commitment and provide safe passage for anyone who wishes to leave the country – not just for the duration of our evacuation and relocation mission, but for every day thereafter.
“Every day thereafter” takes us into Absurdistan. Blinken continued:
And we’re developing detailed plans for how we can continue to provide consular support and facilitate departures for whose who wish to leave after August 31st. Our expectation – the expectation of the international community – is that people who want to leave Afghanistan after the U.S. military departs should be able to do so. Together we will do everything we can to see that that expectation is met.
“Everything we can” is the motto of the Biden administration’s surrender.
One cannot understand Blinken’s remarks without the video component. Blinken represents the face of defeat. Although his words proclaim a kind of success, Blinken looks like the chump in an old Western who is dancing at the end of a gun being shot at his feet. He is demoralized. He is not proud. He is ashamed. Unfortunately, his shame is insufficient to prompt him to resign.
Unlike his boss, Blinken is not stupid. He may not understand the scope of the historic national humiliation in which he is a protagonist, but he appears to be getting there.
Shortly after Blinken’s remarks the State Department posted this security alert (emphasis in original, links omitted):
Event: Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.
U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.
Actions to take:
• Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in large crowds.
• Follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to curfews.
• Have a contingency plan for emergencies and review the Traveler’s Checklist.
• Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
• Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
• Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
For humiliation, it’s hard to top this: “Follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to curfews.”