Government

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Secretary Lloyd J. Austin At Top of Meeting with Afghan Interpreters – United States Department of State

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  (Inaudible.)  I can’t imagine what you’ve been through over the last several days (inaudible) had to make a tough decision to leave your homeland to begin a new chapter in your life in a new country.  I want you to know that we greatly appreciate the sacrifices that you’ve made on behalf of our country and our NATO Allies and our partners and as we work together to create a better Afghanistan.

You’re starting a new chapter in life now.  I’m very confident that that chapter will be a successful one.  (Inaudible) a lot of people (inaudible), and I think that you’ll find once you get to the United States that people will embrace you.  I know that there will be a number of challenges (inaudible).  But I’m confident that once you reach the end of your journey, you’ll be very much satisfied and you’ll be happy with the decision that you make.  But again, I know it’s tough to leave your homeland and to leave your extended family.  But now I can tell you on behalf of the Department of Defense and the United States of America thanks so much for all you’ve done for us, and we look forward to welcoming you at the United States of America.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  I can really only echo what the Secretary of Defense said.  I’ve read some of your individual stories, and it’s really amazing to me.  First of all, as the Secretary said, you’ve been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our people, with our soldiers, with our diplomats, putting yourselves on the line and at risk, putting your families on the line and at risk, and we have a deeply felt debt and obligation to you and to everyone else who has stood up and done the same thing over these many years.

And I know that for – from almost each of you, you got pulled into the airport, HKIA, on very short notice.  You had to make this incredibly wrenching decision about leaving people behind.  But what we saw you do at HKIA on – often at the gates, helping also to pull your fellow Afghans in to safety and security to the airport, was truly, truly remarkable.  And now you’re continuing here to help in this extraordinary evacuation effort that we’ve been engaged in together.

So sort of to repeat what the Secretary said, we want to make sure with everything in our power that we do right by you in the days and weeks ahead, but also by many others who stood by our side in Afghanistan who are still in Afghanistan and want to leave.  And that is something we’re committed to for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, however long it takes to make good on that obligation.

But mostly, like the Secretary of Defense, I just want to say thank you.  And what’s been accomplished here – again, thanks to you as well – has been truly remarkable.  And again, I know we’re always – we talk a lot about numbers, but meeting you even briefly is just a reminder that we’re really talking about people.  And what you’ve done for your fellow human beings is really extraordinary, so thank you.  It’s really – it’s an honor (inaudible).

MR PRICE:  Thank you all very much.

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