Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 17, 2021
QUESTION: Joining us now is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador, it’s wonderful to see you. Thank you for spending some time with us today.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here.
QUESTION: Can we achieve what Malala is asking us to achieve? Can we protect, realistically, Afghan women and girls from the Taliban?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just state, one, to say how courageous Malala is, and I did read her article in the New York Times. And yes, we can. We have to. Our commitment to Afghan women and children, and to all Afghans, is unwavering, and is not related to our military presence. We have diplomatic tools, we have economic tools, we use our development assistance, and our humanitarian assistance to support women and girl’s education moving forward, and we will continue to do that. And right now, we’re working around the clock to help Afghan women and other vulnerable people who want to leave Afghanistan, get out of Afghanistan. The President has acknowledged that the situation there is a painful situation, it’s gut wrenching, and it’s especially so for women who don’t know what they face in the future. But they should know that we are committed to continuing to assist them in every way possible.
QUESTION: May I ask you about what that looks like practically speaking? Because Congressman Seth Moulton is getting calls from veterans whose interpreters have some access to Kabul, but their wives and daughters are stranded, cowering – in his words – in basements. Our former bureau chief is reporting on a woman trapped in her home with her three daughters. What should people tell them? What should women do right now, today?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know the situation is difficult, but we are all working, as I noted, around the clock to provide direct assistance to people. Our military is at the airport, we’ve gotten about 3,000 people out in the last two days, and we will continue to work to provide assistance to every single person who needs assistance who we can gain access to. And I know that there will be stories, such as the one you are describing, we will make every effort to assist everyone.
QUESTION: What is the future for the women that can’t get out under Taliban rule?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we have, here at the United Nations, gotten together with all of our allies and our colleagues to put forward a very strong press statement calling on the Taliban to respect the rights of women, to include women in their government, and we will be watching them very, very closely over the coming months as they attempt to form a government. And our message to them is a message that has been unified here at the United Nations. That message is clear: That they have to honor the rights of Afghan women, they have to be an inclusive government. If they want any respect, if they want any recognition by the international community, they have to be very conscious of the fact that we will be watching how women and girls and, more broadly, the civilian community is treated by them as they try to form a government.
QUESTION: People throw around the expression, “the world is watching,” but when you walk around doing your job, the world is literally watching, and I’m not sure what measures are in place for COVID, but I wonder with the world watching you, what kinds of questions have you had about the haunting echoes to 1975 in Saigon, as this evacuation is messier, and more dangerous, and our friends and allies are hanging off airplanes? What sorts of things have you heard from everyone?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think this is not 1975. This is 2021. We are in a different world. We have planned and we are responding. This is not an unplanned situation that we are in. It’s difficult, I am absolutely not denying how difficult the situation is, but we are in a process of trying to get people out, and our friends and allies are not hanging off planes. Our friends and allies are getting the support of the U.S. government, and we’re working around the clock to get people out.
QUESTION: I just don’t want to misunderstand you, who do you identify as hanging off the planes at the airport in Kabul?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t know, you said people were hanging off planes. And I did see the one report where there were hundreds of people at the airport, and all of those people we want to assist and we recognize that, but what we are trying to do is provide an orderly path for Afghans and others to leave the country, and we are working around the clock to do that.
QUESTION: And there are indeed more flights going out today as we speak. Madam Ambassador, thank you so much for spending some time with us. I’m sorry, go ahead –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I was just about to say that we are getting out planes every hour, on the hour, and we will continue to do that until we finish the job.
QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, we’re grateful to you, from a place where all the world’s problems coalesce around your desk – I’m sure – we’re grateful to spend some time with you, thank you for taking our questions.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.