Despite bungling the Kabul pullout of Americans and allies, President Joe Biden insisted on keeping the August 31 deadline. The Taliban, who now controls Afghanistan, warned Biden that the airlifts must end by that date. Otherwise, an extension can reignite a new war.
Kabul Pullout To End August 31
As a result of the deadline reminder, the US military ramped up its Kabul pullout airlifts. More reports about fresh abuses made by the Taliban are fueling concerns for thousands of Afghans wanting to leave the country. Many are afraid of persecution by the ruling Taliban because of their connections with the occupying US forces.
The Pentagon reported that it evacuated 21,600 people within a 24 hour period that ended Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, Biden announced that an additional 12,000 evacuees already left Kabul in the 12 hours that followed.
They include flights by the US military and other charter aircraft. In addition, the President asked the Pentagon and the State Department for evacuation contingencies should the Kabul pullout need more time.
Pentagon Confident to Finish Airlift By Deadline
Pentagon officials said they can get all Americans out by August 31. However, thousands of foreign nationals and locals are in dire need of help getting out. This complicates the US plans as many Afghans insist on leaving the country. Once the deadline passes, they can become subject to reprisals from the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the Taliban remains insistent that the US completes its Kabul pullout by its self-imposed deadline. Any additional delays can set off a deadly exchange between militants surrounding the airport and the approximately 6,000 US troops.
‘US Must Stick To Its Self-Imposed Deadline’
In Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the US must honor its self-imposed deadline. After the deadline passes, the Taliban won’t allow any Afghans to fly out of the country.
Mujahid also said that are already barring Afghans from going to the airport. However, they are still allowing foreigners to pass. This is in order to prevent large crowds from forming.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the August 31 deadline is more than enough time to get all Americans out. However, he became less specific when asked about the fate of at-risk Afghans.
Kirby said about 4,000 American passport holders and their family members already left Kabul as of Tuesday. “We expect that number to grow in the coming days,” Kirby said.
US Troops Withdrawing From The Area
Kirby also said that with the withdrawal winding down, several hundred US troops have withdrawn from the area as well. Headquarters staff, maintenance personnel, and others already left Afghanistan, as their presence “will have no impact on the mission at hand,” he said.
At his point, it remains unclear how many Americans are still inside Afghanistan. In addition, how many want to leave but are still there remains unknown. Some Republicans questioned the political leadership on why the US is eager to comply with a Taliban order.
Representative Steve Scalise (LA) said that the US should tell the Taliban and not the other way around. “We need to have the top priority to tell the Taliban that we’re going to get all of our people out, regardless of what timeline was initially set,” he said.
Can They Complete The Kabul Pullout In Time?
Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff (CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday that “it was hard for me to imagine” that the US can complete the airlifts by the end of the month.
For his part, Mujahid said that the US need not worry about locals remaining in the country. The Taliban already brought peace and security back to Afghanistan. He said that the bigger problem is that the US is bringing with them engineers, doctors, and other professionals which their country needs.
Watch the ABC News video reporting that Biden stands by decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline:
Do you think the US can complete the Kabul pullout of Americans and their allies by the August 31 deadline? What do you think awaits those who fail to leave the country by then?
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