U.S. military looks at staying in Afghanistan past Aug. 31 despite Taliban’s objections
The Pentagon is considering an extension of the Aug. 31 deadline to pull out the remaining 6,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Pentagon is considering the extension during its discussions with President Joe Biden and allies. He also said the U.S. is aware of the Taliban’s objections to changing the date.
“The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible,” Mr. Kirby said. “The focus is trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month.”
But Mr. Kirby said there are no plans for the U.S. to retake Bagram Airfield to quicken evacuations.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Monday that he couldn’t report a precise number of Americans evacuated “in part because that number changes all the time.”
He said that 10,400 people were evacuated within the previous 24 hours. He also noted the State Department believes there are several thousand Americans who would like to leave Afghanistan.
Last week, estimates put the number of Americans in Afghanistan at somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000.
Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated or enabled the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people, Mr. Price said. “Since the end of last month, the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people.”
And he said the State Department called Americans in Afghanistan over the weekend.
According to national media reports, the gates to the Kabul airport have been closing and reopening without notice, and the Taliban have been harassing and even beating Americans trying to get to the airport.
During recent days, U.S. military helicopters have been used to transport Americans trying to reach the airport.
The Biden administration has said it has an agreement with the Taliban to allow for safe passage of Americans to the airport.
On Monday, Mr. Price said the U.S., in conjunction with the international community, has “significant sources of leverage” if the Taliban violates that agreement. He noted it’s in the interest of the Taliban, who will be overseeing a large, expensive country, to abide by the agreement.
Mr. Price said any attempt by the Taliban to disrupt evacuations of Americans “would be met with a very swift and severe response. That has been our message.”
Later he added, “Well, I want to be very clear about one thing. We are not in any way trusting the Taliban. This is not about trust. This is about what’s in our interests and also what’s in the interests of the people of Afghanistan, and those two things are aligned.”
Mr. Price’s briefing came a day after the release of a CBS News/YouGov poll, in which 74% of those surveyed said the U.S. withdrawal had been handled badly or very badly.
The information in this story is based on national media reports and a transcript at state.gov.