After a nearly four-hour delay, on Tuesday, Aug. 24, President Joe Biden held a press conference to discuss efforts to evacuate the remaining Americans and allies in Afghanistan. He stressed the administration’s attempts have so far seen 70,700 removed from Kabul since Aug. 14 and confirmed continued progress.
Although there will not be an extension beyond the Aug. 31 deadline to have all American troops out of Afghanistan, the time is fast approaching. Even though the Biden administration asked for an extension, which Taliban leaders denied, some say a few days extra would still not be enough time to get everyone out of the country. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said:
“Even if the deadline is Aug. 31 or is extended by a few days, it will not be enough to evacuate those we want to evacuate and those that the United States wants to evacuate.”
But Biden argued, “We are currently on a course to finish by August 31.” And then, he added, the process will depend “upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate” and that “we run a serious risk of it breaking down as time goes on.”
The president spoke of his meeting with the G7 members, claiming they were all in agreement:
“We agree the legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold international obligations, including to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorism. And we agree that none of us are going to take the Taliban’s word for it. We’ll judge them by their actions, and we’ll stay in close coordination on any steps that we take moving forward in response to the Taliban’s behavior.”
Meanwhile, refugees will, according to the commander-in-chief, be vetted first before gaining entrance into the U.S. “The United States will do our part, and we are already working closely with refugee organizations to rebuild a system that was purposefully destroyed by my predecessor,” Biden remarked.
The Pentagon said there is a fourth military base now in New Jersey to help house newly arriving Afghans. There are three others, in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas. The four bases can hold up to 25,000 evacuees, according to Maj. Gen. Hank Williams, the joint staff deputy director for regional operations.
Reports have been circulating of gunfights at the Kabul airport as Liberty Nation Managing Editor Mark Angelides reported. “U.S. and German troops exchanged fire with ‘unknown attackers,’ suggesting that it is not just the ruling Taliban controlling the flow of traffic and people into the airport.” There is concern that both Al Qaeda and ISIS-K are working in the area, too.
U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet warned of dire conditions in the area. She said there were credible reports of “summary executions” as well as more restrictions on women under Taliban rule. On Aug. 24, she reported the recruitment of child soldiers as well.
Biden claimed he had the Pentagon working on a contingency plan in case more time was needed after the rapidly approaching deadline. Reporters during the briefing asked if it was still the plan to evacuate every American, but the president walked away from the podium without answering a single question.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.