Pentagon spokesman John Kirby shrugged off concerns about the US citizens and the billions of dollars in military technology left in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
He also blamed stranded Americans for waiting until the last minute after the last US jets left the country the afternoon before.
In an MSNBC interview, Kirby said the military would no longer play a role in helping them get out but was confident diplomatic efforts would be enough – and said the desperate situation was ‘not completely unlike’ others around the world.
‘We have Americans that get stranded in countries all the time,’ he said bluntly.
Kirby said the Taliban is clear on what the US intends to do and if the militant group wants to govern as it says, ‘we’re going to hold them to their deeds not just words.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a ‘small number of Americans’ between 100 and 200 Americans left in Afghanistan trying to flee as of Monday.
In a separate interview on Fox News Tuesday, Kirby said the government wouldn’t ‘turn a blind eye’ to those Americans but there were ‘a lot of reasons why’ they didn’t leave.
In an MSNBC interview, Kirby said the military would no longer play a role in helping Americans get out but was confident diplomatic efforts would be enough
He blamed US citizens for not deciding to leave earlier, despite reports of stampeding crowds and violent treatment by Taliban fighters guarding the airport gates over the last two weeks. Some people reported being turned away even with proper paperwork and American passports.
‘There was some – a lot of efforts trying to contact them, trying to get in touch with them and marshal them in. Some people didn’t want to make decisions until the endgame,’ Kirby said.
‘I don’t know the case with each and every one of these 100 or so that are left, but what I can tell you is that as a government, we’re going to continue to make every effort we can to help them find safe passage.’
On Monday Blinken declared ‘a new diplomatic mission has begun’ in Afghanistan to try and get those remaining Americans out.
He vowed to use diplomacy and leverage to bring out any Americans, allies, or Afghanis who assisted the US and want to leave, as critics pounded Biden for allowing the withdrawal before all Americans were out, comparing those who remained to hostages.
‘We made extraordinary efforts to give Americans every opportunity to depart the country,’ he said.
Blinken said some who stayed were dual citizens and US passports who weren’t sure they wanted to go and were ‘trying to decide whether or not they wanted to leave.’
He said the US and allies plan to hold the Taliban to keep the airport open and allow safe passage. ‘Any engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only – our vital national interests,’ he said.
He also mentioned new ways out – including ‘overland routes,’ which means driving across Afghanistan’s famously inhospitable terrain.
But last week, when the State Department warned Americans to leave the airport over imminent terrorist threats, Blinken also blamed Americans still on the ground for not leaving fast enough after first being warned earlier this year to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.
From Monday into Tuesday reports of Americans trapped in Kabul begging for help have also emerged.
Rep. Darrell Issa told Fox News on Tuesday that he’s in contact with a pregnant American trapped in Kabul
A pregnant woman who tried to get to the airport ‘multiple times’ with her husband and father is in contact with California Rep. Darrell Issa, who talked about trying to help her escape on Fox News this morning.
She was kicked in the stomach by Taliban fighters and is now forced to hide in an apartment, relying only on her friends to bring her food and keep her whereabouts secret.
Issa is also trying to help an elderly couple in their 80s who were turned away at the airport despite having their US passports.
An American citizen who worked as an interpreter for the US military told CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night that she’s still stranded in Afghanistan
Going by the pseudonym ‘Sara,’ she said was sheltering 37 women and children in her home as she tried to organize them safe passage out of the country.
But she was unaware that the last US plane was leaving, after US forces completed their withdrawal almost 24 hours ahead of their August 31 deadline.
‘I just found out that they left, and I was just silent for a while,’ Sara said. ‘I just can’t believe no one told me this was the last flight.’
CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday interviewed ‘Sara,’ an American national who was left stranded in Afghanistan after the US military removed the last remaining troops from the country just hours before
After the final departure Monday, US Central Command chief General McKenzie revealed troops left behind 73 aircraft and 27 tactical Humvees at Hamid Karzai International Airport. He claimed they were demilitarized and would never be used again.
‘They can take pictures and walk around and look at them, but they can’t fly them or drive them or use any of the systems that we have at the airport,’ Kirby said.
However it’s clear some US aircraft left in the country are still operable – a video circulating last week showed Taliban fighters flying a Black Hawk helicopter gloatingly across the sky. Just one could cost as much as $20 million.
As for weapons the US handed over to Afghan government forces over the years – the US spent $83 billion training and arming troops – Kirby admitted there was ‘quite a bit of material in that batch that the Afghans had that the Taliban now have access to.’
But he was unconcerned about the impact those gadgets would have on the Taliban’s fighting capability – despite acknowledging they can be deadly.
Roughly $28 billion alone was spent on Afghan weapons from 2002 – 2017, Reuters reports.
Taliban fighters took control of Hamid Karzai International Airport after the US withdrew
The Pentagon said the US aircraft and vehicles left behind have been demilitarized and no longer pose a threat if in the wrong hands
‘The kinds of equipment we’re talking about while certainly there is a lethality component to it, it doesn’t pose a threat to the United States. It doesn’t pose a threat to neighboring nations. These are not the kinds of things that the Taliban can make great strategic use out of them,’ Kirby said.
He didn’t elaborate on what the ‘lethality component’ was or whether it would pose a threat to the thousands of vulnerable Afghans left behind.
Before evacuating some US equipment and ammunition was destroyed by the military.
But that didn’t stop the Taliban from claiming victory. On Tuesday the Taliban held mock funerals for American troops and NATO allies as thousands turned out on the streets of major cities to celebrate the end of the 20-year US military intervention in Afghanistan.
Coffins draped with the US, UK and French flags as well as NATO’s insignia were paraded through the streets of Khost by crowds waving the Taliban’s flag, hours after the final US plane departed.
The taunting ceremony followed the deaths of 13 US troops in an ISIS-K suicide bombing on August 26 at the Kabul airport.
In Kandahar – a traditional Taliban stronghold – thousands also turned out waving white Taliban flags to celebrate what the group is referring to as its ‘independence day’, hours after the final American troops boarded an evacuation flight out of the country.
Fake coffins draped with the British, American, French and NATO flags were paraded through the streets of Khost in Afghanistan today as the Taliban celebrated the end of western ‘occupation’
It comes after celebratory scenes in Kabul overnight, where fireworks exploded and gunfire rattled through the air moments after the final US jet departed.
Speaking from the runway at Kabul airport this morning – and surrounded by Taliban special forces units dressed head to toe in American gear – spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid hailed the ‘victory’ over western forces.
‘It is an historical day and an historical moment…. we liberated our country from a great power,’ he added, saying the last 20 years should serve as a ‘big lesson for other invaders [and] a lesson for the world.’
Following 2,356 US military deaths, many thousands wounded and an estimated $2.3 trillion spent on a 20-year endeavor that ended with the Taliban sweeping back to power, many Americans are frustrated with President Joe Biden’s handling of the withdrawal.