The Latest: Blinken says US working with Taliban on flights

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DOHA, Qatar — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the State Department is working with the Taliban to facilitate additional charter flights from Kabul for people seeking to leave Afghanistan after the American military and diplomatic departure.

Blinken was speaking on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Qatar’s top diplomats and defense officials. He said the U.S. has been in contact with the Taliban “in recent hours” to work out arrangements for additional charter flights from the Afghan capital.

Blinken said the Taliban have given assurances of safe passage for all seeking to leave Afghanistan with proper travel documents. He said the United States would hold the Taliban to that pledge.

Blinken said the United States believes there are “somewhere around 100” American citizens still in Afghanistan who want to leave. The State Department had previously put that estimate at between 100 and 200.

Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are in Qatar to thank the Gulf Arab state for its help with the transit of tens of thousands of people evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15.

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

Blinken and Austin to visit Gulf to address postwar stresses

Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province

Over 24 hours in Kabul, brutality, trauma, moments of grace

US: Afghan evacuees who fail initial screening Kosovo-bound

Rescue groups: US tally misses hundreds left in Afghanistan

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BOSTON — Over two decades, the United States and its allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars building databases for the Afghan people. The nobly stated goal: Promote law and order and government accountability and modernize a war-ravaged land.

But in the Taliban’s lightning seizure of power, most of that digital apparatus — including biometrics for verifying identities — apparently fell into Taliban hands. Built with few data-protection safeguards, it risks becoming the high-tech jackboots of a surveillance state. As the Taliban get their governing feet, there are worries it will be used for social control and to punish perceived foes.

Putting such data to work constructively — boosting education, empowering women, battling corruption — requires democratic stability, and these systems were not architected for the prospect of defeat.

“It is a terrible irony,” said Frank Pasquale, Brooklyn Law School scholar of surveillance technologies. “It’s a real object lesson in ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’”

Since Kabul fell Aug. 15, indications have emerged that government data may have been used in Taliban efforts to identify and intimidate Afghans who worked with the U.S. forces.

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