Afghanistan: Biden says Kabul evacuations have ‘long way to go’
Despite progress in evacuating people out of Afghanistan, Biden said, “We have a long way to go. And a lot could still go wrong.”
Associated Press, USA TODAY
- As Biden considers pushing the Aug. 31 exit deadline, Taliban warns against that.
- White House says over 16,000 people were evacuated between Sunday and Monday from Kabul.
- China says Americans are running away from Afghanistan. It stands ready to help Taliban rebuild.
President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the U.S. may look to extend its Aug. 31 deadline for exiting Afghanistan, again vowing that any American who wants to leave the country will be evacuated.
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending,” he said. “Our hope is we will not have to extend.”
But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, in an interview with Sky News on Monday, said Aug. 31 is a “red line” and that extending the American presence would “provoke a reaction.”
“So if they extended, that means they are extending occupation,” he said. While there is no need for that, I think it will deteriorate the relation, it will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, so it will provoke a reaction.”
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Meanwhile, an Afghan guard died Monday in a firefight at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to the German military, according to reports. The guard had been exchanging gunfire with unidentified men.
To help speed evacuations, the Air Force is sending nearly three dozen C-17 transport planes to Kabul on Monday, CNN reports, adding that as many as 20,000 people are awaiting an airlift.
American evacuations from Afghanistan picked up speed over the weekend, with President Joe Biden telling the country on Sunday afternoon that 11,000 people had been airlifted out of Kabul in the previous 30 hours.
Analysis: US lacks leverage over Taliban amid chaotic Afghanistan exit: ‘They have us in a corner’
Vice President Kamala Harris, in Singapore in the first stop of a Southeast Asia tour, took questions on how events unfolded over the last week in Afghanistan. Noting that there “is going to be plenty of time to analyze” the fall of the government, she said Monday the U.S. is focused solely on getting Americans and allies out of the country.
“There is no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children,” Harris said. “That has to be our primary focus and where we are placing our attention on the issue of Afghanistan.”
– Katie Wadington
BEIJING — China is once again criticizing the United States over Afghanistan, saying America cannot simply abandon the war-torn country.
“The United States is the root cause and the biggest external factor in the Afghan issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday. “It cannot just run away like this.”
He called on the U.S. to help maintain stability, avoid chaos and rebuild Afghanistan.
“I hope the U.S. side can match its acts with words, take on its responsibilities in Afghanistan and put into practice its commitments to Afghanistan in terms of development and reconstruction, and humanitarian assistance,” he told a daily briefing.
China has expressed readiness to work with all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, to rebuild the war-torn nation.
– Associated Press
The White House released updated evacuation numbers on Monday morning.
In the 24-hour period starting at 3 a.m. EDT Sunday, 28 U.S. military flights – including 25 C-17 and 3 C-130 transport planes – airlifted about 10,400 people. Another, 5,900 people were evacuated on 61 coalition aircraft.
That brings to 37,000 the total number of people who have been evacuated by the U.S. or had their evacuation “facilitated” by the U.S, the White House said.
– Katie Wadington
More: Chaos at Kabul airport raises questions about U.S. evacuation effort
As the Tailban entered its second week of governing Afghanistan, a new threat gained attention: ISIS-K.
The threat of ISIS terror attacks in Kabul on civilians surrounding the airport and on American forces posted there has forced changes in planning for the evacuation, according to two U.S. officials.
The fear is that ISIS-K might target the crowds of Afghans and others swarming the gates at Hamid Karzai International airport, one official said. The airfield is secured by more than 5,000 U.S. troops. But the security that exists beyond its perimeter has been provided by the Taliban, who have been beating Afghans and some U.S. citizens at checkpoints leading to the airport.
– Tom Vanden Brook, Josh Meyer
Learn more: Brutal ISIS-K affiliate in Afghanistan poses terror threat to U.S. evacuation
LONDON — Britain is urging the United States to extend its evacuation effort in Kabul beyond the current Aug. 31 deadline, saying without the Americans that other countries will have no choice but to stop their own operations to help people fleeing the Taliban takeover.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to press President Joe Biden at an emergency meeting of Group of Seven leaders on Tuesday convened by Britain.
Some U.K. military leaders have said Britain should keep troops at Kabul airport to continue the evacuation effort even if the Americans leave. But Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said Monday that “there is a hard reality that there would be no international airlift without the way that the U.S. are underpinning it.”
He said that “whether or not the U.S. can be persuaded to stay is a matter for the prime minister tomorrow in the G-7 meeting.” He said that an agreement from the Taliban would also be needed for an extension.
Biden has not ruled out extending the airlift beyond the Aug. 31 deadline he set before the Taliban’s swift takeover in Afghanistan, but he said he hoped it would not be necessary.
Britain says its forces have evacuated more than 5,700 people — chiefly U.K. citizens and Afghans — from Kabul in the last 10 days, 1,821 of them in the past 24 hours.
– Associated Press
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