Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 18, 2021
QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, that’s Linda Thomas-Greenfield, joins us now to discuss. Good to see you Madam Ambassador. What’s your biggest concern right now?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s great to see you as well, Gayle. Look, our biggest concern right now and our major priority is working around the clock to get those people who need to get out of Afghanistan out. We were able to get a thousand out yesterday and we’re moving forward, rapidly, to move others out of danger.
QUESTION: You know, people are looking at it, and I am sure you, too, were haunted by the images that we’re seeing. Why weren’t preparations made ahead of time? And I know hindsight is 20/20, I get that. And everybody that has no experience with anything, has an opinion. But it does beg the question why preparations weren’t made earlier to make sure that this transition went a little better. Look at this, with the people literally hanging on to the plane. Preparations weren’t made.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, Gayle, absolutely preparations were made. We did contingency planning but none of us can appreciate what happens when the end of a civil war takes place and the victors entered the city. But we were prepared for this and we’re working around the clock to ensure that people are given support to get out of the country.
QUESTION: I heard a White House spokesperson say the other day, I wrote this down, “we’ve received assurances from the Taliban that we will.” Those words don’t even seem to go together to me, when you hear them in a sentence. How, what stock are you putting in with the Taliban saying “we have changed”, “we’re encouraging women to join the government”, “there will be no retaliation against any of the Afghan people who have worked with the U.S.” How are you viewing that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we have to see what they do. We hear what they’re saying, but it is their actions that really will define how they address these issues moving forward. And we will be watching very carefully what they do as it relates to women and girls, and inclusiveness.
QUESTION: What is the UN doing right now to protect girls, in particular, and women? The women are very afraid. Many of them are in hiding.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I feel their fear, but the UN announced very early that they will remain on the ground, they will continue to support programs for women and girls. And we’re all, including myself here in New York, we’re pushing every single member of the UN, of the Security Council, to raise their voices, in unison, to say to the Taliban that it is absolutely imperative that they protect the rights of women and girls.
QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, it’s Tony Dokoupil. We’ve seen pictures online –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi Tony.
QUESTION: Of courageous women – good morning to you, thank you for being with us. We’ve seen pictures of courageous women in Afghanistan protesting the Taliban’s takeover. Some at 6:30 in the morning walking to school as though it’s just another day, and nothing has changed. Obviously, both those activities do carry new risks this morning. What would you advise, what does the UN advise, to the women of Afghanistan right now? Should they stay inside, watch and wait, or try to go about their lives?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know I have to leave that to Afghan women to decide for themselves. But personally, I think they need to make every attempt to go on with their lives knowing that we, in the international community, will be looking to ensure that they are protected.
QUESTION: Are you talking with representatives in the region? Are you in communication with them?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Secretary Blinken has been, on an almost hourly basis, on the phone with his counterpart. I am speaking daily with my counterparts here in New York and we’re engaging, actually, in the Security Council on Afghanistan. You may have seen that we issued a very strongly worded statement that got unanimous support and that’s an important statement. Unanimous support in the Security Council calling on the Taliban to honor humanitarian programs, to support human rights, and particularly the rights of women and girls, and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
QUESTION: Well, we’re all watching, the world is watching. Let’s hope things improve and that this situation works out a little better than what we’re seeing so far.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we have to do more than hope.
QUESTION: Yeah, you’re right.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have to do more than hope, Gayle. We really have to pull out every tool that we have to make sure that women and girls are safe in this country.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Ambassador. We’ll be right back.