Washington, Aug 18 (EFE).- President Joe Biden said Wednesday that United States troops may stay in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline to complete the evacuation of all US citizens.
He did not elaborate on what will happen to the thousands of Afghans and their families who have assisted US forces and who are finding it difficult to get to the Kabul airport, around which the Taliban have established checkpoints.
In an interview with ABC News, Biden made it clear that his goal is to complete the evacuation of Americans and some Afghans before Aug. 31, but if that is not possible, “we’ll determine at the time who’s left.”
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” he promised.
There are still between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan, in addition to between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans and their families that Washington wants to remove from the country, Biden said.
The Pentagon has also not made an explicit commitment to evacuate the interpreters, drivers and other Afghans who have assisted troops for more than 20 years.
At a press conference, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, made it clear that their goal is to evacuate all Americans and as many Afghan staff “as possible,” without giving more details.
So far, some 6,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the US, although US authorities want to accelerate that pace, a senior White House official said Wednesday night.
On Wednesday 1,800 individuals were evacuated in 10 C-17 military aircraft, according to the official, a figure that is notably lower than the Pentagon’s goal to evacuate between 5,000 and 9,000 people a day from Kabul airport.
Biden said that if 5,000-7,000 people can be removed from the country each day there will be no need to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan beyond the deadline.
However, the president admitted during the interview with ABC News that his government is having difficulty getting Afghans out of the country, despite the fact that the Taliban had promised to allow the safe passage of civilians to the airport.
On Wednesday, the State Department denounced that the Taliban are blocking roads, preventing Afghans from reaching the airport amid evacuation efforts.
This is a violation of the agreement that the US had reached with the insurgent group, who promised to allow the safe passage of civilians who wanted to leave.
Despite the difficulties, the president and the Pentagon leaders again on Wednesday defended their decision to withdraw troops and insisted that there was nothing that could have predicted the collapse of the Afghan army and government in just 11 days.
ABC News asked Biden if the withdrawal could’ve been handled better.
“No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look – but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happen,” Biden said in the interview, which will be broadcast in full on Thursday.
The Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15 when its fighters entered the capital without resistance, with almost all the provinces under their control, and after the self-exile of Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. EFE