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U.S. troops may not withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31 if Americans remain trapped and in need of help, President Joe Biden told ABC News in an interview late Wednesday.
Biden’s admission means that the American self-imposed withdrawal deadline, which the president set back in July, may have to be extended to meet that commitment, even though, also on Wednesday, the Biden administration’s Department of Defense said that they planned to stay in Kabul “until the clock runs out.” As The Daily Wire previously reported, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn’t say what clock he was referring to, but it was interpreted as referring to the August 31 timetable.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to get all Americans out and our allies out,” said the president on Wednesday.
ABC News host George Stephanopolous, in turn, asked, “Does that mean troops will stay beyond August 31 if necessary?”
“Depends on where we are,” said Biden, “and whether we can ramp these numbers up to five to seven thousand a day coming out. If that’s the case, they’ll all be out.”
Stephanopoulos responded: “We’ve got like ten to fifteen thousand Americans in the country right now, right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to get out is out?”
“Yes,” said Biden, later adding, “If there’s American citizens there, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”
Biden’s comments come amidst a desperate situation in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which was taken over by the Taliban in a matter of days. Only last week, The Washington Post had reported that some U.S. officials were concerned that the country could fall into Taliban hands within several months.
It’s unclear exactly how many Americans remain in Kabul. The U.S. military has been stationed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, northeast of the now-abandoned U.S. embassy. Americans looking to evacuate, however, have been told by the U.S. government that their safety cannot be guaranteed en route to the airport.
Videos have emerged of Afghans clinging to evacuations planes and falling from the sky, and crowds gathering around Taliban-controlled areas in an apparent effort to escape. One viral video shows a baby getting passed around, an apparent attempt to get the child out of the area and to safety.
According to VICE News, one of the Afghans who fell from the military evacuation plane was identified by his family as a 17-year-old boy who heard a rumor that Americans and Canadians would evacuate 20,000 people. He and his younger brother, 16, went to the airport without telling anyone and hoped to be among them, their family said.