U.S. completes drawdown of Kabul diplomats; remaining staff to aid in evacuation

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Press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States has completed a drawdown of embassy personnel from Kabul, and the diplomatic staff remaining are assisting the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.

U.S. military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians restarted on Monday after having been suspended due to chaos at Kabul airport.

U.S. forces took charge of the airport on Sunday as Taliban militants wound up a week of rapid advances by taking over Kabul without a fight.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier that the Taliban had told the United States they would provide safe passage for civilians to reach the airport.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass was also heading to Kabul on Tuesday to help with the evacuation and Washington hoped to retain a "core diplomatic presence" at the Kabul airport until at least Aug. 31 and longer if it was safe to do so, Price told a regular press briefing.

“We’re focused on the mission at hand ... that is an effort to relocate, in some cases repatriate, to the United States and in other cases to relocate to third countries, as many individuals as we can over as much time as we might have," Price said.

The United States would also evacuate as many Afghans as possible who had helped during its 20-year war in the country, he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis; Editing by Franklin Paul and Peter Cooney)

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