Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly disputed reports that the United States government had provided what’s been described as a “kill list” to the Taliban, stating on Sunday morning that “it’s simply not the case.”
Just hours after a deadly suicide bombing attack killed 13 U.S. service members outside the Kabul airport, Politico reported on Thursday that U.S. officials gave the Taliban a list of American citizens, residents and Afghan allies to grant entry through the outside perimeter of the airport, which is controlled by Taliban militants.
The report prompted immediate backlash and outrage from lawmakers and military officials, with many calling for resignations of Biden administration officials over what they felt was effectively a “kill list.” President Joe Biden, when pressed on Thursday by reporters on the story, didn’t explicitly deny that the U.S. has handed over names to the Taliban. At the same time, he said he wasn’t sure there were specific lists.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Blinken was much more forceful in his denial of the story.
“Some of these lists of people that you’re trying to get out of the country you’ve had to give to the Taliban. And I know you guys have some — that you think some of this has been a bit overreported or exaggerated,” NBC anchor Chuck Todd asked. “But given the Haqqani network’s ties to the Taliban, how can you be sure any list you share of Afghans who helped Americans won’t be used for horrendous reasons by the Haqqani network or others?”
The secretary of state responded that “it’s simply not the case,” adding that “the idea that we shared lists of Americans or others with the Taliban is simply wrong” and that they didn’t put those trying to leave the country at risk.
“What was shared?” Todd interjected.
“So, in specific instances when you’re trying to get a bus or a group of people through, and you need to show a manifest to do that, because particularly in cases where people don’t have the necessary credentials on them or documents on them, then you would—you’ll share names on a list of people on the bus so they can be assured that those are people that we’re looking to bring in,” the secretary replied. “And by definition, that’s exactly what’s happened.”
He continued: “We’ve gotten 5,500 American citizens out of Afghanistan. And to the extent that in an individual case with a particular group or a bus to verify that the people on the bus or in that group were people who were supposed to come out, American citizens, especially again, if they lacked the right document with them, that’s what we would do. But the idea that we put anyone in any further jeopardy is simply wrong.”
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan was also confronted about the Politico report during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, and Sullivan essentially reiterated what Blinken said on Meet the Press.
“We’ve aggressively, decisively disputed that report,” Sullivan told host Jake Tapper. “We’ve given no list of all the American [Special Immigrant Visa] holders to the Taliban or any other kind of big list.”
Sullivan went on to insist that American officials have only verified names on buses going through checkpoints with the Taliban, adding that the “idea that we’re handing some list to the Taliban is unfounded and inaccurate” and that the reporting is “irresponsible.”
Elsewhere in Blinken’s Meet the Press interview, the secretary of state said that it was “not likely” that the United States will have an “on-the-ground diplomatic presence” in Afghanistan following the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. He did state, however, that the “commitment to help people leave Afghanistan” who are not out by September “endures” and there are “mechanisms to help facilitate the ongoing departure of people from Afghanistan if they choose to leave.”