The US goal is complete the evacuation of all Americans by August 31 who are in Afghanistan and the tens of thousands of Afghans who collaborated in the twenty years of war. Joe Biden, however, promised in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday to leave US troops in the country until all Americans have been repatriated.
The US president said that everyone has to count on the evacuation operation to end by August 31. “But if there are Americans still there, we will stay until we get everyone out.”, he promised.
Biden was less clear in explaining whether the extension of the military presence would also occur if Afghan allies remain without evacuating. At the moment, according to their own accounts, there are between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans who collaborated with the army who are still in the country. Other estimates put the number at 88,000, not counting Afghans who may now be in danger as journalists, civil rights activists or former government officials.
“The commitment is for all those who can get out and should get out,” the president limited himself to saying.
The evacuation of diplomatic personnel and Americans who are in Afghanistan is being chaotic, but that of the US’s Afghan allies could be much more complicated.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said this week that the Taliban had negotiated to guarantee “safe conduct” to Afghans who wanted to leave the country. However, most Afghans do not have access to Kabul airport, the only clear evacuation route in a country controlled by the Taliban. They have established a security cordon that blocks the majority of Afghans, and this Wednesday there were shootings, stampedes and one wounded – a former translator for the Australian army – outside the airport.
In his first interview since the US rout in Kabul, Biden tried to defend the management of his Administration, as he did last Monday in a speech to the nation. The president insisted that his options were only go ahead with the return of the troops – something that he had promised in the campaign and that his predecessor, Donald Trump, had agreed with the Taliban – or to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan once again and send more troops.
Biden, again, did not accept criticism about the lack of planning for the departure, which ended in a historic fiasco, with helicopters evacuating US diplomats from the roof of his embassy and widespread chaos. That was inevitable, according to Biden. “There is no way we would have gotten away without the chaos afterwards,” he defended.