US President Joe Biden on Sunday said discussions are under way on whether or not to extend the evacuation deadline beyond August 31, the last day he has committed himself to for Americans to leave Afghanistan.
Biden also indicated that US forces securing the Hamid Karzai International Airport are being expanded to provide “increased rational access” to the airport overcome present difficulties.
“There’s discussion going on among us and the military about extending,” the American president said, adding, “Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process.”
The US evacuated 11,000 people out of Kabul in the last 36 hours, which, the American president said, is “an incredible operation”. It has lifted nearly 28,000 people since August 14 and 33,000 since July.
The United States had planned to complete the evacuation of all American citizens, allies and Afghan partners by August 31, a deadline posted by Biden for ending America’s longest war.
But those plans did not factor in the unexpectedly early collapse of the Kabul government. And the swift return of the Taliban triggered a rush on the airport of Afghans eager to flee the country, specially those who had worked with US and allied forces and now feared reprisal from the Taliban.
Facing withering criticism of the chaotic evacuations, Biden has sought to reassure Americans no American or Afghan partner will be left behind, as the president indicated before in an interview to ABC, the US could stay beyond the August-end deadline.
The US is also expanding the safe zone around the airport to allow easier access for Americans and Afghans trying to get inside amid reports massive crowd and efforts by Taliban fighters who are manning approach roads to prevent Afghans from leaving.“We have constantly – how can I say – increased rational access to the airport, where more folks can get there, more safely is still a dangerous operation but I don’t want to go into the detailed,” Biden said in response to a question, as he refused to divulge more details for security reasons.