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Afghanistan updates: Blinken faces grilling on Capitol Hill

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(NEW YORK) — With the U.S. military and diplomatic withdrawal now complete after 20 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban has taken over the country, including the Kabul airport, the site of an often-desperate evacuation effort in past weeks.

But even as the last American troops were flown out to meet President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, other Americans who wanted to flee the country were left behind. The Biden administration is now focused on a “diplomatic mission” to help them leave but some hoping to evacuate are still stuck in the country. Meanwhile, the Taliban has announced its new “caretaker” government which includes men with U.S. bounties on their heads — and no women.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Sep 13, 10:28 am
Blinken to testify in 1st Capitol Hill hearing since US withdrawal 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will likely face tough questions from House lawmakers at 2 p.m. when he testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee — the first Capitol Hill hearing on Afghanistan since the chaotic U.S. evacuation mission ended.

Frustrated Republicans are expected to press Blinken on Americans still stranded in the country as well as vetting for Afghan refugees in the U.S., and Democrats to defend the Biden administration for ending America’s longest war.

Biden administration officials, including Blinken, have blamed the now-failed Afghan government for collapsing so quickly to the Taliban as the U.S. continues its “diplomatic” mission in the country, without State of Defense Department officials on the ground.

Following Monday’s expected grilling, Blinken is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

Sep 11, 2:16 pm
NATO secretary general says thorough assessment launched into Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in an op-ed published Saturday that a “thorough assessment” has been launched into the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“Indeed, there are many hard questions we need to ask honestly about our engagement. There are lessons that we must all learn,” he wrote in the article, which published in the German newspaper Die Welt.

Stoltenberg also emphasized the “essential” role military force plays in combating terrorism and the importance of cross continental collaboration.

Sep 11, 10:43 am
44 US citizens invited on flight leaving Afghanistan, some decline

The second passenger flight to leave Kabul since the U.S. military withdrawal landed in Doha Friday, with 19 U.S. citizens on board despite 44 being invited on the flight, a State Department official said.

The official cited “various reasons” for U.S. citizens declining to get on the flight.

The department will continue its efforts to ensure safe passage for any Afghan partners who want to leave Afghanistan, the official said, but didn’t say that included inviting Afghans on Thursday’s or Friday’s chartered flights.

“We made every effort on short notice to utilize all available seats. We invited U.S. citizens and LPRs [lawful permanent residents] who indicated their willingness to depart on short notice,” the official said.

While there are so many Afghans still desperate to leave, the official said, “Our first priority continues to be assisting U.S. citizens and LPRs who wish to depart Afghanistan.”

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan.

Sep 11, 10:29 am
3 Afghan refugees diagnosed with measles in northern Virginia

After the U.S. temporarily halted all U.S.-bound flights of Afghan evacuees from overseas bases Friday in response to four evacuees testing positive for measles, the Virginia Department of Health announced that three Afghan refugees were diagnosed with measles in northern Virginia.

“Out of an abundance of caution, health districts in northern Virginia are informing people who were at various locations listed below during the specified time frames, that they may have been exposed to one of three people diagnosed with measles,” the announcement said. “These individuals recently traveled from Afghanistan as part of the United States government’s emergency evacuation efforts”

The department of health listed possible exposure at Dulles Airport on Sept. 3, 4 and 8, at StoneSprings Hospital Center on Sept. 6 , Inova L.J. Murphy Children’s Hospital on Sept. 7 and 8, the Dulles Expo Center from Sept. 4-8, and at the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport from Sept. 4-9.

The health department is coordinating efforts to reach those who were possibly exposed, according to the statement.

ABC News’ Michelle Stoddart

Sep 10, 3:19 pm
Afghan evacuee flights to US halted after measles cases

The U.S. has temporarily halted all U.S.-bound flights of Afghan evacuees from bases overseas after four evacuees tested positive for measles, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Friday.

“Operation Allies’ welcome flights into the United States have been temporarily paused at the request of the CDC, and out of an abundance of caution because of four diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the United States,” Psaki said. “These individuals are being quarantined in accordance with public health guidelines, and the CDC has begun full contact tracing.”

Psaki said all Afghans are required to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella as a condition of entry into the U.S. and that those immunizations are being administered as refugees are received at domestic military bases. The White House is also exploring measures to vaccinate people while they are still overseas, she said.

“But it was again a step recommended by the CDC out of an abundance of caution given for measles cases,” Psaki added.

Sep 10, 3:00 pm
White House confirms ‘overland’ passage, 2nd flight with Americans landing in Doha

National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne has confirmed that U.S. citizens and permanent residents were among those on the second passenger flight to leave Kabul since the U.S. military withdrawal. There were also Americans and lawful permanent residents taken out of  Afghanistan on Friday “via overland passage,” she said.

“Today the United States government facilitated the additional departures of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents both on a chartered Qatar Airways flight from Kabul and via overland passage to a neighboring country. The Qatar Airways flight held 19 U.S. citizens and the party traveling overland included two U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents,” she said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price previously confirmed that Thursday’s flight had 10 U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, on board.

-ABC News’ Ben Siegel

Sep 10, 12:46 pm
2nd Qatari flight lands in Doha with foreigners on board

A second Qatar Airways flight from Kabul landed in Doha at 7:29 p.m. local time, according to flight data, with an unknown number of foreign nationals on board.

The flight number for the Boeing 777 — QR7277 — was the same as Thursday’s, the first flight out of Kabul since all U.S. personnel withdrew.

Sep 10, 12:23 pm
Kinzinger blasts US evacuation mission as ‘strategic failure’

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., criticized the Biden administration’s handling of evacuations from Kabul as a “strategic failure” on ABC’s “The View” on Friday and expressed deep concern for what will happen in the coming weeks as the Taliban exercises complete control of the country.

“Afghanistan has a constitution. That constitution and that government was overthrown by force by a military coup of the Taliban. I don’t think at any other time we’d look at a military coup by an enemy, in a country of an ally and say, we’re looking forward to finding opportunities to work with them,” Kinzinger said, as the U.S. cooperates with the Taliban to get some 100 remaining Americans out.

“There will be a moment, I fear, when the cell towers come down or the information is locked down, and we see the acceleration of the brutalization of women, of gays, of people that are different than what the Taliban wants them to be,” he added.

Kinzinger argued there is “so much hypocrisy” in the debate on whom to blame for the war ending as it began, under Taliban rule, including on all four presidents preceding Biden, but said the execution of the withdrawal is “what’s broken so many hearts.”

-ABC News’ Joanne Rosa contributed to this report

Sep 10, 11:33 am
2nd passenger plane takes off from Kabul

A second Qatar Airways flight has taken off from the airport in Kabul with an unknown number of Americans on board, a day after the more than 100 foreign nationals left Afghanistan on the first flight out since the U.S. military’s withdrawal.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed that 39 Americans had been invited on Thursday’s chartered Qatar Airways flight from Kabul and from that group, 10 U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, flew out.

Another 43 Canadian citizens, 13 British citizens and others were also aboard.

The Biden administration offered some praise for the Taliban on Thursday for their cooperation as officials try to fly out some 100 Americans without U.S. troops or a State Department presence on the ground.

Sep 10, 8:00 am
US has ‘many means’ to get intelligence in Afghanistan, Mayorkas says

The United States has “many means” of gathering intelligence in Afghanistan despite not having boots on the ground, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.

“We no longer have troops in Afghanistan, but we have other resources to learn information on the ground and we certainly use those resources to the best of our abilities,” Mayorkas told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on “Good Morning America.”

“We are quite creative and quite capable of learning information from coast-to-coast and all over the world,” he added.

Mayorkas noted that the U.S. government is watching the potentially re-emerging terrorist threat in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan “very closely.”

“We watch the threat landscape all over the world,” he added. “We have built an entire architect to protect, to safeguard the American people.”

But the greatest threat to the U.S. homeland is currently domestic terrorism, according to Mayorkas.

“Individuals who are prone to violence by reason of an ideology of hate or false narratives that we see on social media or other online platforms,” he said. “I think it’s a sad thing to see hate emerge, as we have observed it emerge over the last several years.”

With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks approaching, Mayorkas said the government is not aware of any “specific credible threats targeting the United States” on the somber date.

“But we are vigilant,” he added. “We watch the information, we learn information; but at this point in time, we don’t know of any threat on the anniversary.”

Sep 09, 3:57 pm
More than 30 Americans invited as passengers on flight from Kabul, some declined

More than 30 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents were invited by the U.S. to be passengers on the first chartered flight out of Kabul since the American evacuation mission ended, but not all said yes. Some said no because of medical reasons, extended family members or their desire for more time, among other reasons, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Price said he could not give an exact number of those who did make Thursday’s flight to Qatar.

Echoing an earlier statement from the National Security Council, Price said he welcomed the Qatari Airways departure from Kabul. He said he hopes and expects more flights will be allowed to continue in the days to come.

Sep 09, 2:16 pm
White House confirms flight with Americans landed in Qatar, calls Taliban cooperation ‘professional’

National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne has confirmed that U.S. citizens and permanent residents were among the passengers on the first charter flight to leave the airport in Kabul since Qatar took over operations at the airport and that they have safely landed in Qatar.

The statement offered no passenger numbers, so it’s unclear how many U.S. citizens were on board, but it did provide some praise for the Taliban’s cooperation.

“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step,” the statement said.

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