In late afternoon remarks at the White House, Biden recognized the success of the mission will depend largely on cooperation from the Taliban. He said he’s asked military leaders to be ready with contingency options to “adjust that timetable” if it becomes necessary.
“We are currently on a pace to finish by August 31. I am determined to complete our mission,” Biden said in a speech that was delayed by hours.
Still, he said meeting that deadline “depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport to those who are transporting out and no disruptions to our operation.”
“The sooner we finish the better,” Biden said. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”
Earlier in the day, Biden relayed his decision on sticking to the end-of-month deadline in crisis talks with the Group of 7, making clear the decision was in large part driven by persistent security risks.
“It is a tenuous situation,” he said in his remarks, describing an “acute” risk of attack from the ISIS affiliate operating in Afghanistan.
Biden’s foreign counterparts had entered the morning G7 meeting prepared to apply pressure on Biden to extend the deadline, arguing more time is needed to evacuate their citizens and at-risk Afghans who assisted in the war effort. But aware of the risks that will confront American troops in September, Biden made clear he wants the airlift finished by the end of the month.
While the Pentagon has voiced confidence it can evacuate all remaining Americans in the country by next week, it’s less clear it will be able to assist the thousands of Afghans who assisted the war effort and are still awaiting their turn to leave.
Many Afghan allies who the US has aimed to help will be left behind, a senior administration official told CNN, adding, “That would be true whenever we evacuated and whenever the Taliban took over.”
The official said the 70,000 people evacuated in the last 10 days does not closely match the universe of Afghan allies potentially eligible to come to the US, which Biden has previously estimated at 50,000 to 65,000. Many of the 70,000 evacuated have included different groups of Afghan allies given priority by the US’ European partners. In addition, some of those evacuated have not even applied for Special Immigrant Visa status yet, though they will in Qatar or Kuwait.
The official declined to estimate the number of Americans still in Afghanistan, deferring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will speak on Wednesday, but said the number on August 14 was “probably lower than most people believe” because “a lot left in the final few weeks.”
Evacuation effort picks up steam
The crisis talks of the G7 came as the Afghanistan evacuation effort picks up steam, now far exceeding the administration’s initial daily goals. Biden said on Tuesday that in the past 12 hours, 12,000 people had been evacuated from Kabul: 6,400 on 19 separate US military flights and 5,600 on 31 different coalition flights.
The Pentagon said the military has increased the pace of flights out of Kabul to one every 45 minutes.
In total, the White House says US efforts have facilitated the evacuation of approximately 70,700 people since August 14, Biden said. Approximately 1,000 Afg
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