The Biden administration, apparently taken by surprise by a Taliban announcement Monday that demanded the United States abide by its August 31st deadline for a full withdrawal, is now scrambling to evacuate American citizens, green card holders, and foreign nationals, and has called a halt to evacuating Afghans from Kabul’s airport, despite a crush of thousands desperate to leave.
The Taliban said Monday that they will not allow the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan after August 31st, despite President Joe Biden’s pledge that the American military will stay until all known Americans have been evacuated. The White House says that “discussions” with the Taliban are still ongoing, but the Taliban has threatened “consequences,” as The Daily Wire noted, if the U.S. remains past the August deadline.
To make sure Americans get priority for evacuation, “U.S. officials have ordered troops to only allow American citizens, Green Card holders and other foreign nationals through the gates of Kabul airport to board evacuation flights, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghan refugees stranded outside while the Taliban tightens its grip,” according to the Daily Mail, citing a report from CNN.
The U.S. managed to evacuate around 10,000 people overnight, and are expected to evacuate more on Monday, but there are “as many as 20,000 people at the airport in Kabul, all waiting to board flights on U.S. or NATO jets,” the Mail noted. The United States has committed to taking around 20,000 Afghan refugees out of the country to safety elsewhere in the world.
Monday morning, Pentagon spokesman John Kiby admitted that the Biden administration still does not know how many Americans are in Afghanistan; early reports put that number between 10,000 and 15,000 but it is assumed many of those individuals have now left on evacuation flights.
“We’ve been able to evacuate several thousand Americans,” Kirby said.
The U.S. has also committed to helping Afghans who are in danger from Taliban reprisals, but even Afghan employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul now admit they may be left to fend for themselves, according to NBC News.
“Local staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are ‘deeply disheartened’ by U.S. evacuation efforts and have expressed a sense of betrayal and distrust in the U.S. government, according to a State Department diplomatic cable,” the outlet said Sunday. “‘It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet’ than face the crowds again, a staff member was quoted as saying in the cable.”
In remarks on Sunday, Biden defended the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, claiming that the evacuation would have been messy regardless of the timeline.
“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,” Biden said. “Would’ve been true if we started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving, though, that we can move thousands of people per day out of Kabul.”