In Sunday’s White Press Conference, President Joe Biden said the deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan might have to extend beyond the August 31 deadline in order to complete the evacuation of American personnel and Afghan allies.
He also said, “There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process.” Biden maintained that he believes that all necessary evacuations would be completed by August 31 and that the evacuation efforts would be ramping up.
According to the White House on Monday morning there have been 28 U.S. military flights that have evacuated approximately 10,400 personnel and 61 coalition aircraft flights have been used to evacuate approximately 7,800 personnel from Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, Sunday and up to 3:00 am on Monday (Aug. 21-23). Since the end of July, evacuation totals are approximately 42,000 personnel (on both military and coalition flights).
Biden’s National Security advisor, when pressed, admitted the U.S. really doesn’t know how many Americans and allies still remain. In an interview Sunday with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Sullivan said, “We know that it’s roughly a few thousand, Chuck. But let me explain to the American people why we don’t exactly know. Because when people come to Afghanistan who are American citizens, we ask them to register with the U.S. Embassy. Many leave and never de-register. Or others come and choose not to register in the first place. Of course, as Americans, that’s their right. So, we have been working for the past few days to get fidelity on as precise a count as possible. We have reached out to thousands of Americans by phone, email, text. And we are working on plans to, as we get in touch with people, give them direction for the best and most effective way for them to get into the airport.”
On Sunday Biden said, “Let me be clear, the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began. Would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and the heart-breaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul.”
Biden continues to declare that regardless of when the U.S. made the decision to pull out of Afghanistan, such a crisis would have been unavoidable.
On Monday morning Taliban spokesperson Dr. Suhail Shaheen told Sky News that the Taliban won’t accept President Biden’s potential extension from Afghanistan and “It’s a red line.”
Shaheen, in a video interview with Sky News said, “This is something, you can say it’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 of August they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.”
“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction,” he added.
A Taliban leadership official also said foreign forces haven’t requested any extension and echoed Shaheen’s assertion that it would not be approved.
At this time, it’s unclear how many of the evacuated personnel are Americans. The administration has struggled to determine exactly how many Americans are in Afghanistan. There have also been reports of the Taliban beating U.S. citizens who are trying to get to the airport.
This is an ongoing event and will be updated as information is available.