Biden to stick to Afghan pullout deadline
Tens of thousands of Afghans gathered around the Kabul airport in the hope of getting a flight out of the country as an evacuation run by the US military continues.
Biden also asked for contingency plans to stay longer, should it be necessary, the official said.
The Pentagon recommendation reflects increasing security concerns at the Kabul airport, where American citizens and at-risk Afghans are being evacuated.
Washington is telling the Taliban the August 31 deadline is contingent on the group’s cooperation in facilitating evacuations, the official added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Pentagon said there had been no change so far in its plan to meet the August 31 deadline and that it intended to withdraw US troops by then.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Pentagon believes it has the ability to get all Americans who want to leave Afghanistan by August 31.
“We’re absolutely still aiming towards the end of the month,” Kirby said, while adding that the Pentagon may need additional bases to house evacuees from Afghanistan.
Kirby said “several thousand” Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan but declined to give a more specific figure. He also said he was unable to provide the percentage of Americans in Afghanistan who have now been evacuated.
Meanwhile, the Taliban said on Tuesday that they would block Afghans trying to leave the country from travelling to Kabul’s airport and would reject any plans to extend the deadline for American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this month.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, noted that chaos at the airport remained a dangerous problem, and said the way to it was being closed to Afghan citizens to prevent people from joining the crowds. “The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road,” Mujahid said, without clarifying how long that policy would be in effect.
He urged the crowds of Afghans thronging the airport in hopes of leaving the country to instead go home, saying that the Taliban would “guarantee their security”.
Mujahid called on the US “to not encourage Afghan people to flee their country”. He added: “This country needs our doctors, engineers and those who are educated — we need these talents.”
Meanwhile, according to the latest information, CIA Director William J. Burns has met Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in Kabul. After this meeting between the two on Monday, there are also indications of some kind of deal.
Baradar and the CIA Director have come face to face in a high-level meeting. As per the information, this is the first such high-level talks after the capture of Kabul in which a senior US official has held talks with the Taliban. The US has a deadline to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by August 31, and the Taliban and America are at crossroads regarding this.
It is believed that the CIA director has discussed the issue of evacuation of American citizens from Afghanistan with the Taliban leader.
– THE TELEGRAPH INDIA, THE STATESMAN