USCG Almaty on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency USG Staff/Family Members

 

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. It also announced that the Department approved the voluntary departure of Consulate General Almaty non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of all Consulate General Almaty U.S. government employees.
On Saturday, January 8, US Mission Kazakhstan issued a Security Alert for U.S. citizens in the country announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency USG staff and family members at the Consulate General in Almaty. The Alert also advised U.S. citizens in country to shelter in place if a safe departure is not possible:

The U.S. government has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.  

U.S. citizens in Almaty are advised to shelter in place until safe departure is possible.  Avoid standing next to balconies or windows and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.  Further, all U.S. citizens in Kazakhstan are advised to avoid crowds or demonstrations.

A nationwide state of emergency and curfew is in place between the hours of 11pm and 7am and will remain in effect until January 19.  Expect security checkpoints controlling access to population centers, public transport disruptions, and limitations on movement throughout the country.  Overland border crossing to neighboring countries may not be possible or safe at this time, and access to fuel may be limited.

Unrest in Almaty continues, and there were reports of gunfire overnight and ongoing direct conflict between armed groups and Kazakhstani government forces. Widespread flight and train disruptions continue, and there are cancellations on both domestic and international routes.  Almaty airport and railway stations are currently closed.  You are advised to check with your airline to confirm your flight and reminded to avoid travel during curfew hours.

Communications services countrywide have been limited and internet restrictions continue.  However, the government of Kazakhstan reports that access to limited news outlets has been restored.  Disruptions to internet access may continue to impact other services such as banking, credit card transactions, and COVID-19 testing.  Coordinate with your medical provider to determine testing availability.

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US Embassy Sudan On Voluntary Evacuation as of 10/27, New Travel Advisory Out on 11/8 (?)

 

On October 25, the US Embassy in Sudan issued a Security Alert (see US Embassy Khartoum Issues Security Alert Following Coup in Sudan).We missed that post issued a Security Alert two days later announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency personnel and family members Security Alert: Authorized Departure of Non-Emergency U.S. Government Employees and Family Members from U.S. Embassy Khartoum (27 October, 2021).
On November 6, Embassy Khartoum issued another Security Message noting sporadic protests, and advising U.S. citizens to shelter in place.

Sporadic and decentralized protests continued on November 5 and 6. Large protests are reportedly planned for November 7 and possibly November 8. While organizers of the protests signal their intent to continue to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, there have been violent confrontations in the past. American citizens are advised to shelter in place to the extent possible.

Movement in and around Khartoum has improved and all bridges are reported open. Military checkpoints remain in place and protesters continue to form their own roadblocks in and around Khartoum. Telephone networks are functional at the time of posting. Most internet networks remain non-functional.

Should you elect to stay in Sudan and shelter in place, please consider not just security issues, but also the long-term sustainability of your living situation. Factors to consider may be the availability of food in the markets, fuel in gas stations, bank closures, pharmacy closures, the reliability of water and electricity sources, communications barriers, land border accessibility, port closures, and dependably available air travel.

Previous Security Alerts advised U.S. citizens to “Please develop departure plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.”
On November 8, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Sudan.  The Advisory announced the October 27 authorization for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees due to civil unrest and possible supply shortages.
Did post go on “authorized departure” on October 27 but State did not issue a new Travel Advisory announcing that development until November 8?

US Embassy Ethiopia Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency USG Staff and Family Members

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa went on “authorized departure” on November 3. Two days later, the embassy went on mandatory evacuation for non-emergency personnel and family members.  (US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac). The State Department has now urged U.S. citizens in the country to depart while commercial air is available as well as announced that the embassy is “unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

Event: On November 5, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

The Department of State urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Although seats on commercial flights currently remain available, we cannot predict when demand will exceed capacity.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe due to the ongoing armed conflict. Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

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US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa just issued a Security Alert announcing the State Department’s authorized voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages. A Level 4 Do Not Travel to Ethiopia Advisory dated November 3, 2021 was also issued urging U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to “consider departing now using commercial options.”

On November 3, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should consider departing now using commercial options. Those planning to remain should ensure they have sufficient provisions stocked in case they need to shelter in place.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe at this time due to the ongoing armed conflict.  Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence may occur without warning.

Further escalation is likely, and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts and travel disruptions.  The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

The Government of Ethiopia has previously restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. These restrictions impede the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.

The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. U.S. Embassy personnel are currently restricted from traveling outside of Addis Ababa city limits.

Actions to Take:

    • Have a personal emergency action plan that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.
    • Take advantage of commercial transportation options, if you wish to depart Ethiopia.
    • Monitor local media for breaking news on such events;
    • Avoid large crowds and demonstrations;
    • Be aware of your surroundings;
    • Keep a low profile.
Read in full here.
The US Embassy in Addis is headed by a career diplomat, Ambassador Geeta Pasi.  Immediately prior to her appointment, Ambassador Pasi was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, beginning in 2018.  She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Chad (2016-2018) and Djibouti (2011-2014).
Ambassador Pasi’s DCM is Fiona Scholand Evans who assumed her duties as Deputy Chief of Mission in Addis Ababa in August 2021.  Ms. Evans has served overseas in Peru, Tajikistan, Kosovo, Iceland, Kenya, and twice in Germany.  In Washington, D.C., Ms. Evans was Transportation Officer and Deputy Director of the Aviation Negotiations Office at the State Department.

EEOC: US Embassy Yemen FSN Discrimination Claim Over Denial of Overtime Fails

 

This is an instructive case for local employees of U.S. missions overseas. Even during a crisis, especially during a crisis, during chaos, even during evacuations, if a local employee is tasked to do work outside or normal work hours, there must be overtime pre-approval by the the supervisor (typically this means the American officer-supervisor).   In this EEOC case, the local employee claimed 1,952 hours of overtime for work purportedly done from 2015-2019. Without documented pre-approval by the American supervisor, Uncle Sam is not obligated to pay.
Even if a supervisor  or some other embassy official asked for work to be done; even if work was actually done as requested …if there’s no record or documentation regarding the overtime requests or preapproval for the overtime “as required”, there would be “no basis to grant the overtime pay.”
All good supervisors and decent human beings hopefully will ensure that pre-approvals are made and granted before any work requests are made of the local staff. Otherwise, you’ll be asking, and no one will be paying …. and that would disturb one’s conscience. Or should.
Via EEOC Appeal No. 2020003186:
At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as a Defensive Security  Coordinator, Grade 10, at the Agency’s U.S. Embassy in Yemen. On April 30, 2019, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against him and subjected him to a hostile work environment on the bases of race (Arabian) and national origin (Yemen) when:

1. Complainant was denied overtime compensation for work he performed since 2015, and as recently as April 3, 2019;

2. Complainant has been denied a higher base salary level commensurate with his other American citizen colleagues; and
3. He was subjected to a hostile work environment, characterized by, but not limited to, his supervisor’s requests that he return his U.S. government-issued vehicle.  The most recent request was March 18, 2019.
Complainant was hired by the Agency in 2010, as a Local Hire under the Local Hire Program at the U.S. Embassy. Complainant has dual citizenship; he was born in Yemen and became an American citizen on September 22, 2006. He averred management knew his race and national origin because he was a Local Hire.

Claim 1 – Denial of Overtime (OT) Compensation since 2015

Complainant claimed that he held two different positions with the Agency. First, Complainant stated that he performed Defensive Security Coordinator duties from January 2014 to July 2019. Complainant stated that he had been granted overtime for years in this position prior to the Embassy’s evacuation in 2015. Secondly, Complainant claimed that he performed Regional Security Officer (RSO)/Team Lead duties from February 2015 to November 2015. Complainant claimed that his duties increased after taking on that role. Complainant alleged that he was called at all hours of the day and night.


On February 12, 2015, the Embassy where he worked was forced to evacuate. Shortly thereafter, in March, war ensued. After Complainant worked to coordinate the evacuation, he returned to the U.S. The Embassy suspended operations in 2015. The record indicates that Complainant’s entire work history was destroyed along with all other employee files that were kept onsite. The record indicates, however, that he remained on the Agency rolls until July 2019.


Complainant stated that after the evacuation, his work continued and he says his responsibilities escalated, but he was not fairly compensated. Complainant alleged that he sent an email to management officials, including his supervisor at the time (S1-2), listing all of the dates he worked overtime but he received no response. Further, Complainant claimed that he was told that they would try to process it, but he might have to wait until the Embassy reopened.


S1-2 acknowledged that Complainant held the Defensive Security Coordinator position and was eligible for overtime, but only with a prior authorization from his supervisor. He averred that he was the one to approve, but he averred “no requests for overtime were made.” S1-2 further confirmed, however, that Complainant provided information in support of his claim for 1,952 hours of overtime. S1-2 said that he forwarded the overtime claim to the Department and asked Complainant for further documentation.


Complainant submitted an email to his supervisor regarding his overtime on December 12, 2018, and after he did not receive a reply, he reached out to the Office of Civil Rights.

He received a reply on April 3, 2019. In the response, S1-2 informed Complainant that there was no record or documentation regarding his overtime requests or preapproval for the overtime as was required. Therefore, there was no basis to grant the overtime pay.

Claim 2 – Denial of Higher Compensation Given to American Colleagues

While working in the RSO section, Complainant believed that he was entitled to a higher base salary. Complainant averred that he should have received a new contract, inasmuch as he was promised a promotion. Complainant alleged that his former supervisor (S1-1) tasked him with controlling everything but did not ensure that he was compensated fairly. In addition, Complainant alleged that numerous officials over the years failed to ensure that he was compensated fairly or transition his job status. Complainant asserted that all of the issues stemmed from the fact that he was hired as a Locally Employed Staff. Complainant averred that, unlike his non-Arabian colleagues, he had to pay for his family to evacuate Yemen because of the war, but the government paid for the other employees’ families to evacuate. Complainant state that he was also put on at least one Reduction-in-Force list, but the notice was rescinded.
[…]
Complainant averred that he thought he could “work his way up” because of his American citizenship status. He acknowledged that he was hired as a Locally Employed Staff employee, which does not have a Career Ladder progression.

Claim 3 – Hostile Work Environment/Demand for Vehicle Return

Before the February 2015 evacuation of the Embassy where Complainant worked, he had been assigned a vehicle. The car is still parked at his relatives’ home in Yemen. When he and others were forced to flee in 2015, it was assumed that he would be able to come back in about a month.
He averred the Agency stopped him from going back because of the risks for him. On February 4, 2019, S1-2 issued a directive that the car be returned to service. The two communicated via email during the period February 23, 2019 to March 14, 2019. Complainant told him that he
feared his family would be placed in danger if the vehicle was retrieved. To protect his family still in Yemen, Complainant asked for certain safeguards. There were no further communications after April 2019.
[…]
In the decision, the Agency found that Complainant was not subjected to discrimination as alleged.
[…]
Upon review of the record, we find that Complainant has not presented sufficient argument or evidence to establish that the Agency’s explanations for its actions were pretext intended to mask discriminatory motivation. As a result, we find that Complainant was not subjected to the discrimination as alleged.

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US Embassy Kabul Suspends Operations on 8/31/21; Next, the Afghanistan Affairs Unit in Qatar?

 

The US Embassy in Kabul issued a Security Message announcing its suspension of operations:
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on August 31, 2021.  While the U.S. government has withdrawn its personnel from Kabul, we will continue to assist U.S. citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar.
After 20 years, one ‘forever’ war finally ended and one of the largest US embassies in the world just closed its doors.
We are assuming that the US Embassy Kabul will now transition to the Afghanistan Affairs Unit (AAU) operating out of the US Embassy Doha in Qatar. This is a guess given the precedence with four other remote units after the suspension of diplomatic operations in Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, and much earlier, Somalia.

— Yemen Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

— Venezuela Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia)
— Libya External Office (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Tunis, Tunisia))
U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya) – the Department officially established Embassy Mogadishu as a permanent post in 2019. The IG says that although the  Somalia Unit no longer exists as a remote mission, some staff continue to be based at Embassy Nairobi, and Embassy Mogadishu continues to rely on Embassy Nairobi for support services.
According to the IG audit, the VAU has been open for  almost 2 years; the YAU has been open for more than 6 years; and the Libya External Office has been  open for almost 7 years. The Somalia Unit operated from U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya, for more than  9 years before the Department reestablished a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia.
The most recent OIG report we could locate for Qatar is dated 2010. At that time, the OIG describes Embassy Doha as a mid-size embassy, with a staff of 82 U.S. direct-hire person­nel, 113 foreign national staff, and 11 locally hired American personnel. No Qatari citizens are employed by the mission. Operations under chief of mission authority include representatives from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Foreign Commercial Service. Operating budgets for U.S. Gov­ernment agencies under chief of mission authority total approximately $13.7 million.  Post is likely supersized already. We just don’t know by how many. Would be interested to see what the staffing pattern is going to be like for the AAU in Doha.

From way, way back in 2015:

Related posts:

WaPo: Surprise, Panic and Fateful Choices, the Fall of Kabul

 

Tuesday before the fall of Kabul, the U.S. Senate had just confirmed the nominations of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter and Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Gentry Smith. There is no Senate confirmed official for the Bureau of Administration, the agency’s logistics arm. There is no Senate confirmed official for the Under Secretary for Management, the umbrella office that provides leadership to 10 bureaus; a post currently encumbered by an Acting/M.
On August 18, three days after the fall of Kabul, the State Department announced that President Biden’s “M” nominee will be sent to Kabul (@StateDept Sends M Nominee John Bass to Kabul to Leverage “Logistics Experience” in Evacuation). In the coming days, there will likely be a louder push to examine the evacuation from Kabul. Some will be politically-motivated; we’re already seeing shades of Benghazi in online rhetoric.  For people living in the rational  universe, it would still be important to understand what happened there, how it happened, and why.
WaPo has a ‘must-read’ account on the fall of Kabul.  We would like to see the tic-toc inside Foggy Bottom during these fateful days. As P/Nuland was frantically calling foreign ministers to ask them to help with evacuation efforts, what was happening elsewhere?

On the Friday afternoon before Kabul fell, the White House was starting to empty out, as many of the senior staff prepared to take their first vacations of Biden’s young presidency. Earlier in the day, Biden had arrived at Camp David, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken was already in the Hamptons.

But by Saturday, the fall of Mazar-e Sharif — site of furious battles between pro and anti-Taliban forces in the 1990s — convinced U.S. officials that they needed to scramble. How quickly was a subject of dispute between the Pentagon and State Department.

In a conference call with Biden and his top security aides that day, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for the immediate relocation of all U.S. Embassy personnel to the Kabul airport, according to a U.S. official familiar with the call.

Wilson’s embassy colleagues had been racing to destroy classified documents and equipment in the compound since Friday. An internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post, implored staff to destroy sensitive materials using incinerators, disintegrators and “burn bins.” The directive also called for the destruction of “American flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts.”

Wilson said U.S. personnel needed more time to complete their work. But Austin insisted time had run out, the official said.
[…]
Within the palace, too, the illusion of calm was being punctured. Around midday, much of the staff had been dismissed for lunch. While they were gone, according to officials, a top adviser informed the president that militants had entered the palace and were going room to room looking for him.

That does not appear to have been true. The Taliban had announced that while its fighters were at the edges of Kabul, having entered through the city’s main checkpoints after security forces withdrew, it did not intend to take over violently. There was an agreement in place for a peaceful transition, and the group intended to honor it.

Yet that wasn’t the message that was being delivered to Ghani. The president was told by his closest aides that he needed to get out — fast.
[…]
For the United States, the scope of defeat was total — and was vividly rendered as helicopters evacuated embassy personnel to the airport. Before the American flag was lowered one last time, diplomats engaged in a frenzy of destruction, burning documents and smashing sensitive equipment.

“It was extremely loud,” said a senior U.S. official. “There were controlled fires, the shredding of classified paper documents, and a constant pounding noise from the destruction of hard drives and weapons.”
[…]
At the State Department, top brass, including Wendy Sherman, Blinken’s deputy, and Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, were frantically calling foreign ministers to ask them to help with evacuation efforts and to coordinate a statement signed by 114 countries urging the Taliban to allow safe passage for evacuees. This, they realized, would be a historic evacuation effort.

US Embassy Kabul Evacuates 2,800 Locally Employed Staff and Families

 

Related:

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Snapshot: @StateDept Entities Involved in Lebanon Evacuation (2006)

 

General Mark Milley apparently told lawmakers on a briefing call that the Afghanistan evacuation is “This is probably going to end up as the second largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the United States.” How close could this be to becoming the largest NEO?
One of the largest evacuations conducted by the State Department with DOD prior to the current one is the evacuation of US citizens from Lebanon in 2006. Nearly 15,000 American citizens were evacuated from Lebanon via Cyprus between July and August 2006.

 

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@StateDept Provides Updates on Afghanistan Evacuation: 42,000 Relocated Since End of July

 

It has been over a week since the fall of Kabul. The State Department continues its evacuation from the capital city of Afghanistan. Since the end of July, approximately 42,000 people reportedly been evacuated and relocated. As of this writing, the State Department has not released the number of Americans evacuated from Afghanistan supposedly “in part because that number changes all the time.” This evacuation may be chaotic, but one thing consular folks would definitely track is the Amcit status of evacuees.
How many Americans are in Afghanistan? Estimates vary from 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan according to Reuters. The report also cited Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby who put the number between 5,000 and 10,000 for U.S. citizens  believed to be in the Kabul area. On August 24, NBC News quoted the Pentagon spox saying: “As of today, August 24, we have evacuated approximately 4,000 American passport holders plus their families. We expect that number to continue to grow in the coming days.”
The State Department’s  F-77 report would have an estimate of the number of Americans in the country prior to fall of Kabul.  The report submitted annually provides an estimation of the number of private American citizens in a country, based in part on traveler registration, and is used by State and DOD in planning for and conducting evacuations of American citizens. Of course, reporting a U.S. citizen’s presence overseas at a US Embassy is not mandatory. Dual national may not also report their presence, and could not be counted. While the F-77 data is not perfect, it will have an approximate number of how many Americans post’s believe would need support in an evacuation.
Via the State Department Press Briefing, August 23, 2021:

— …From 3:00 a.m. on August 22nd to 3:00 a.m. on August 23rd, 28 U.S. military flights evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul.

—  Since August 14th, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people.

— Since the end of last month, the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people.

— … officers from the U.S. missions in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and India are assisting, as well as many consular staff from this building and from throughout the Washington, D.C. region.

— The United States wants to sincerely thank the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, and Spain for their help in our efforts to safely transit U.S. citizens, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan.

— The temporary transit locations we have established at U.S. or joint bases in Germany, Italy, and Spain have capacity to process at least 15,000 people on a rolling basis, significantly expanding our ability to facilitate the relocation of U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan.

Doubled Consular presence on the ground. How many?

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, also really briefly, are you guys still sending consular and other people to Kabul to work at the airport, or has that now – have you now reached the – what you need?

MR PRICE: Well, so we are always evaluating the situation on the ground to determine that we have the right staffing posture to accommodate the tasks that we need to take on. We talked about this last week, but as of late last week we had doubled the number of consular officers on the ground in Kabul. We had sent additional consular officers to some of those initial transit sites in the Gulf, including to Qatar, to Kuwait, and the UAE. But the broader point I would make is that we have been able to take advantage of consular officers throughout this building and around the world.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m not interested in the broader point. I’m just interested in an answer to the question. Are you still sending people there?

MR PRICE: If —

QUESTION: And if you’re not – which is fine if you are or not, I just want to know if you’re still ramping up. And then on the opposite end of that is that we are approaching the 31st, and if there is no extension in this, you guys are going to have to start thinking, and I want to know have you already started thinking about drawing them back down again if, in fact, they are going to leave, or if you guys think that maybe you can go back to the embassy.

MR PRICE: Well, we are always evaluating what we have on the ground compared with our needs. If we need more people on the ground, we won’t hesitate to do it. We came to that conclusion last week. That’s why we doubled the presence of consular officers on the ground.

Has the Secretary spoken with anyone?

QUESTION: Okay, last one. Yesterday – and I didn’t see this interview; I saw the first one, I didn’t see the second one – in the CBS interview, the Secretary, according to the transcript that you guys put out, misspoke and said that he had spoken to President Karzai. And I’m less interested in his misspeaking and more interested in knowing whether or not there has been any discussion between the Secretary or anyone else, like Zal or anyone, between the U.S. and former President Karzai, or Abdullah Abdullah, or the others who are now in discussions with the Taliban leadership.

MR PRICE: Absolutely. So, as you know, Matt, there continues to be dialogue between the Afghans – that is to say, representatives of Islamic Republic – and the Taliban. For our part, we have been in touch with relevant and key stakeholders, individuals who are taking part in intra-Afghan discussions with the Taliban. We’re not in a position to read those calls out. This has been primarily on the part of our team in Doha, our team on the ground in Afghanistan, to make sure that we have a regular line in to those Afghan stakeholders.

QUESTION: So the Secretary has not been in touch with —

MR PRICE: No.

Local Staff Questions

QUESTION: Ned, my colleague reported that on Saturday a cable came here – a memo was sent to Afghan staff at the embassy on Wednesday inviting them to head to the airport and that it was so difficult for them to – the physical situation was simply impossible, and that some staff reported being separated from children. They said, quote, “It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet than face the crowds again.” One staff member said they felt betrayed, that it was – it undermined their sense of dignity, their loyalty. This is embassy staff who should have been presumably prioritized, but they were left behind when the evacuation took place, basically.

MR PRICE: …. We have an obligation to these individuals, a sacrosanct obligation. They have served the United States. They have not only worked for us, they have worked with us. Our embassies around the world could not function without locally engaged staff. That is as true in Paris or London as it is in a place like Kabul. So we absolutely have a responsibility to these individuals who have worked with our colleagues on the ground in Kabul and, in some cases, over years or even longer. They are absolutely a priority in terms of our evacuation and relocation planning.

As you know, Andrea, we are now in a position to offer tailored, personalized advice to those we are relocating from Afghanistan, to those we are evacuating from Afghanistan. We’ve been doing that, of course, to American citizens. We’ve been doing that to Special Immigrant Visa applicants. We’ve been doing that to other Afghans at risk. But our locally engaged staff, they are absolutely a priority, they are absolutely part of our plans, and that commitment to them, to their safety and security, is something that is in no way diminished.

QUESTION: Well, couldn’t they – why weren’t they on the original evacuation from the embassy?

MR PRICE: So when the embassy was evacuated and our personnel started to make the way from the embassy in Kabul to the secure facility on the airport compound, many of, if not all of, our locally engaged staff were not present on the embassy compound at that time. They were working remotely given the volatile security situation. Many of them were at home, were not at work. I can tell you that we have been able to relocate members of our locally engaged staff, but they were not brought to the airport compound with the American direct hires at that time just because they weren’t at the embassy compound by and large that day.

Vetting evacuees

QUESTION: But I’m asking you a different question. Surging resources doesn’t answer the question as to why not do this at the third country – surge them there and get them out of Kabul, where they can have better facilities, sanitation, food, et cetera.

MR PRICE: Well, that vetting by and large is taking place at these third countries. When it comes to SIVs, again, all of those who have received instructions to come to the airport have already completed certain stages of the security vetting process. So that initial vet on these individuals has been completed. In many cases, they’re then taken to a third country, where they will undergo more rigorous vetting if it hasn’t yet been completed.

But that is very much the point of the network of transit countries and partner countries throughout the Middle East, throughout Europe, the rest of the world – more than 26 countries across four continents. It is in part a system that will allow us to provide safe haven to these individuals who in some cases – well, in all cases before they come to the United States, but in some cases still need to complete part of that rigorous vetting process.

Number of Americans evacuated –  no precise figure

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. A couple of questions. One, the National Security Advisor in his briefing at the White House earlier today was asked for the number of American citizens who have been evacuated. He indicated he would give that number out; he just didn’t have it at hand. Do you have that number?

MR PRICE: I don’t have a precise figure to give you, in part because that number changes all the time. Just within the past 24 hours, again, more than 10,400 people. We are evacuating thousands upon thousands of people per day, so I just don’t have that figure to provide right now.

What happens after August 31st?

QUESTION: One final quick point. When you say the Taliban has made commitments, does the Taliban understand that given the U.S.’s commitment to its citizens, to SIV applicants, and to others in that pool, that if this operation needs to go beyond August 31st the Taliban must allow that operation to continue?

MR PRICE: Look, this is a decision that only one person will be able to make. That person is not in Afghanistan. That person is not in this building. That person sits in an office without corners in the White House. President Biden will ultimately have to decide when this operation will come to a close. I can tell you that it is our goal to move as quickly as we can and as efficiently as we can to bring to safety as many people as we can. And I think you are seeing in the metrics in recent days and certainly over the past 24 hours that we are making good progress on that.

It is not our goal to be there one day, one hour, one minute longer than is absolutely necessary, but not going to get ahead of that.

 

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