A week after the Taliban took control of Kabul, President Joe Biden said this Sunday that he is having “discussions” with the heads of the US Army on whether to extend beyond August 31 the self-imposed deadline to complete the withdrawal of the troops, although he has clarified that he hopes not to have to come to that. While tension and chaos continue to settle at the airport in the capital of Afghanistan, the president reported that the US and its allies – including Spain – have evacuated almost 28,000 people since August 14, including 11,000 this weekend, among whom were NATO citizens and Afghan collaborators.
In the Democratic president’s fourth appearance on television cameras in a week – three press conferences and an interview – Biden has changed the tune on the situation in Afghanistan with a speech not only focused on Americans, but also on tragedy. Afghans, particularly women, have been living since the triumph of the Taliban. “We will welcome the Afghans who have helped us in the war for the past 20 years to their new home in the United States,” the president said. Planes taking off from Kabul do not fly directly to the US They first transfer people to military bases, where security checks and background checks are carried out for non-US citizens.
The Biden Administration faces the most complex moment of its tenure just six months after arriving in the White House. The US president is cornered by criticism of the handling of the withdrawal of troops. International authorities and Democratic and Republican legislators ask for explanations of the management. The Taliban on Sunday blamed Washington for the chaos at the Kabul airport.
The departure of the last US troops from the Central Asian country, set for August 31, is no longer a certainty. “Our hope is that we will not have to expand, but I suspect there will be discussions about how far along we are in the process,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. At the beginning of July, when the president minimized the risks of a possible reconquest by the Taliban, the president brought forward the withdrawal by 11 days, previously established for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Since August 14, the day before the Taliban’s victory in the Afghan capital, they have evacuated 28,000 people. There are still tens of thousands of Afghans risking their lives to leave their country. The chaos at the airport has left at least seven dead and heartbreaking images out of desperation. “It is heartbreaking,” said the US president. “We see it. We’re sorry. You cannot look at it and not feel it. There is nothing easy in this endeavor, ”he added. According to his statements, the US has spoken “a lot” with the Taliban, who “have cooperated to expand part of the perimeter” of the airport, although it did not offer details about this.
One of the concerns is that members of the Islamic State (ISIS) will take advantage of the chaotic situation at the airport to carry out an attack. “Right now those threats are under control,” Biden said. This morning, Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, explained that commanders on the ground are using various options to defend the compound against a potential terrorist attack. “We are working hard with our intelligence community to isolate and determine where an attack could come from,” he said.