Secretary of State Blinken Thanks Staff for Afghanistan Evacuation Efforts
The U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan relocated to Doha, Qatar.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday thanked U.S. diplomatic personnel for their hard work and resilience during the Afghanistan evacuation process.
The day before the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, on August 30, Blinken announced the United States would end its diplomatic presence in Kabul due to security concerns and the political situation in the country. Now, a new office in Doha, Qatar will function similarly to the embassy. Blinken is traveling this week to Qatar and Germany, in part to thank them for their help in the evacuation process from Afghanistan. During a press conference on Tuesday, Blinken noted “this is not the first time that Qatar has stepped up to help in Afghanistan” as it has “facilitated diplomacy between the Taliban and the Afghan government,” at the request of the United States.
Also on Tuesday, speaking at a hotel in Doha, Blinken addressed staff at the U.S. Embassy in Doha as well as the new diplomatic presence focused on Afghanistan there. It was unclear how many were U.S. employees or local hires.
Since August 19, “you’ve facilitated the safe transit of more than 55,000 people,” which is “nearly half of those who were evacuated in the entire evacuation from Kabul,” he said. “You’ve saved lives; you’ve changed futures in remarkable ways. And I hope that more than anything else that stays with you, because we get called upon to do lots of things in these jobs, but there are not that many days when we can say that the actions that we took–that you took–saved a life, changed a future. And I’m incredibly grateful to all of you for coming together to do that.”
Some of the specific accomplishments he mentioned were ensuring travelers had water, food and medical supplies, in some cases bringing things from their own homes; developing a QR code to speed up information processing time; and raising concerns in cables about what “we needed to do more, particularly with respect to conditions on the ground.”
“The original embassy team, including our locally employed embassy staff–all of whom themselves are third-country nationals, foreign and civil service officers who surged to the mission from posts around the world–it’s not just a microcosm of our own country; it’s literally a microcosm of our missions around the world,” Blinken said. “So many colleagues came from missions all over the world to take part. And, of course, many served in Embassy Kabul as well.”
He added that other agencies were critical to the mission as well. “We also had [temporary duty travel personnel] not only from State, but from [the Defense Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Transportation Security Administration, FBI and Customs and Border Protection] and other agencies all running in, and family members who stepped up to the aid effort,” said Blinken. “And, of course, our partners here in Qatar, who have every single time stepped up repeatedly and generously, supported this operation in every single way that we asked.”
Blinken encouraged everyone to take care of themselves physically and mentally in the wake of what they have been through.
The State Department did not immediately respond to Government Executive’s questions about whether or not the new Doha office will be housed with the U.S. embassy there and how many staff members are present within the two entities.
“Roughly 2,500 U.S. embassy employees were among the 120,000 people the United States evacuated by air from Afghanistan, according to President Biden,” The Washington Post reported on Sunday. “But the operation left ‘many of our longtime partners’ behind, according to a State Department spokesperson. One person familiar with the matter said they included about 2,000 U.S. Embassy contractors and immediate family members, some of whom who had worked at the embassy for more than a decade. The State Department declined to comment on that number.”