Can the U.S. do anything to speed up the stalled Afghanistan evacuation?

The Taliban at the airport
(Image credit: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Taliban has halted the departure of at least four chartered flights out of Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, stranding around 1,000 people, including Americans, seeking to flee the militant group's takeover, The Associated Press reports. Pressure is building for the United States to step in and help with the stalled evacuation, but is there anything the Biden administration can actually do?

Maybe not. An unnamed spokesperson for the State Department told numerous outlets Sunday that since the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan officially ended on Aug. 30, the military does not "have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace — whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region." The spokesperson also indicated the administration was essentially in the dark about the specifics regarding the flights, unable to confirm "basic details" like how many U.S. citizens are on board, who chartered the planes, or even where they're supposed to land.

It seems the U.S., like the rest of the world, is waiting to see what the Taliban will do next. The group has pledged to let people leave the country provided they have proper paperwork. Whether or not they keep this promise will likely set the stage for relations going forward, and give some indication as to just how much the group has changed — if at all.

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Meanwhile, the State Department official said the U.S. would keep working with the Taliban to get people out. "As with all Taliban commitments, we are focused on deeds not words, but we remind the Taliban that the entire international community is focused on whether they live up to their commitments," the spokesperson said, according to The Hill.

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Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a writer and former deputy editor of The Week Digital. Originally from the American Midwest, she completed a degree in journalism at Indiana University Bloomington before relocating to New York City, where she pursued a career in media. After joining The Week as an intern in 2010, she served as the title’s audience development manager, senior editor and deputy editor, as well as a regular guest on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. Her writing has featured in other publications including Popular Science, Fast Company, Fortune, and Self magazine, and she loves covering science and climate-related issues.