US brought 25K out of Kabul last week, Biden says much could still go wrong

Washington, Aug 22 (EFE).- The United States evacuated 7,800 people from Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing the total number of evacuees in the past week to 25,000 amid an “incredibly volatile” situation outside the Kabul airport, the White House reported Sunday.

The figures come from the latest government update, which does not specify how many of the evacuees were Americans and how many were Afghans.

The White House official who provided the information, under conditions of anonymity, said that the evacuations had been made using both civilian and military flights.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the situation around the airport is “incredibly volatile” and acknowledged that the Taliban “control” Kabul, making the evacuation operations very difficult.

“That is the reality, that’s the reality that we have to deal with,” he said in a Sunday interview with CBS.

“What I’m focused on, what we’re all focused on is getting people out and making sure that we’re doing everything possible to (carry out the evacuation). And in this case it is, I think, a requirement of the job (is) to be in contact with, with the Taliban, which controls Kabul,” Blinken added, referring to the need to guarantee access to the airport despite reports that the Taliban is hindering Afghans from going there and harassing those trying to get on evacuation flights.

Thousands of people pushed and shoved each other at the entrance to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with the aim of getting onto one of the outbound flights so that they could leave the wartorn country amid the chaos that has prevailed in the capital since the Taliban took over a week ago.

According to White House estimates, there are still 10,000-15,000 Americans in Afghanistan who need to be evacuated along with between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans and their families who the US wants to extract as well.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked for US commercial airlines to assist in the evacuation effort.

In a statement, the Pentagon reported that American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines will participate in the evacuation with 18 jets, although he emphasized that they will not fly to Kabul and will focus on moving passengers from temporary secure bases and internment centers.

The US has struck agreements with several countries – including Germany, Qatar, Spain and Bahrain – to temporarily take in Americans, applicants for special visas and Afghans who would be at risk if they remained in their homeland and are, or soon will be, in transit to US territory.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Sunday said that he hopes to complete the evacuation by Aug. 31, although he admitted that the situation in Kabul is still dangerous, “has a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong.”

“The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began,” the president said at a White House press conference, adding that “It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain.”

The president also said that US troops had expanded the perimeter around the airport to try and guarantee security there after scenes of desperation in recent days with several people being killed near the Kabul airport.

The president also acknowledged the possibility of a terrorist attack near the airport by members of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan.

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