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Taliban not blocking departure for Americans and visa holders: Blinken

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Qatari capital Doha, on September 7, 2021.(Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has voiced assurance that the Taliban in Afghanistan were not blocking those who had valid travel documents from leaving the country.

The Taliban's rapid advance across Afghanistan last month after US forces messed-up the situation triggered a scramble to leave by those fearing Taliban reprisal.

America’s top diplomat said on Tuesday during his visit to Qatar, a main interlocutor with the Taliban, that the US was making efforts to get flights out of Afghanistan safely. 

“It’s my understanding that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document,” he told reporters. However, Blinken did point out that some the flights departing the conflict-stricken country had been facing delays. He said that the United States was in contact with about 100 Americans who were trying to get out of the country.

About 1,000 people of interest, including some Americans, have been stranded in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for days awaiting clearance for charter flights to leave, an organizer told Reuters, blaming the delay on the US State Department. Blinken gave acknowledgement that the issue delaying the charter flights was one of documents. “[T]hose without valid documents, at this point, can't leave."

Blinken told reporters that neither the Americans nor the locals were being held hostage. "Because all of these people are grouped together, that's meant that flights have not been allowed to go ... We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft, or any hostage-like situation."

Speaking at the joint news conference alongside Blinken, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Qatar and its partner Turkey were working with the Taliban to get Kabul airport running again.

"We hope in the next few days we can get to a level where the airport is up and running for passengers and for humanitarian aid as well," he said.

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