Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that there were between 100 and 200 US citizens who “wanted to leave” Afghanistan but remained in the country. Biden confirmed that estimate on Tuesday and said the United States and others would continue to work to evacuate people out of Afghanistan.
“For the remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” the president said. “We remain committed to getting them out if they want to get out.”
Biden’s tone was remarkably similar to what he displayed in his speech after the fall of Kabul just over two weeks ago. Both were marked by sharp criticism of ousted Afghan political leaders and Biden’s steadfast commitment to ending the war.
“I wasn’t going to prolong this war forever,” Biden said Tuesday, “and I wasn’t going to extend an outing forever.”
Biden’s speech closed a tumultuous month in which the Afghan government and security forces collapsed at breakneck speed, forcing the United States to cooperate with the Taliban to ensure that evacuations can continue while d countless lives were at stake.
Administration officials pointed out that the operation was “the largest evacuation of non-combatants” in US military history. More than 123,000 people have been evacuated, including 79,000 since August 14.
But the pullout was marred by a terrorist attack last week that killed more than 180 Afghans and 13 U.S. servicemen, as well as the government’s recognition that tens of billions of dollars in military equipment had fallen into the hands of the military. Taliban.
On Tuesday, military officials sifted through reports that the United States had abandoned military dogs in Kabul, highlighting the government’s ongoing battle to counter perceptions that the final stages of the withdrawal were hasty and chaotic.
“To correct the misinformation, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including reported military working dogs,” wrote John Kirby, senior Pentagon spokesperson. on Twitter. “The photos circulating online were of animals in the care of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs in our care. “
Throughout the process, the Biden administration has remained adamant about meeting its self-imposed August 31 deadline, even though that infuriated Republicans – some of whom have called for Biden’s impeachment. – raised tensions between the White House and Democrats in Congress, and angered some of the United States’ closest allies.
The president and his advisers have repeatedly said they are determined to end the war in Afghanistan and do not want to extend the withdrawal deadline, which could upset the delicate balance with the Taliban and put other people in danger.
“The departure on August 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives, ”Biden said.
The White House is eager to put the Afghan saga behind it and refocus on pressing domestic concerns, even if the ramifications seem likely to stretch for months, if not years.
There are tens of thousands of Afghans and their families who will need to be resettled in the United States and other countries – a formidable logistical challenge – and a series of congressional committees are embarking on inquiries into the exit. Afghanistan.
The international community will also need to determine its approach to the Taliban now that they have taken control of Afghanistan. The United Nations Security Council on Monday adopted a non-binding resolution calling on the Taliban to honor their humanitarian commitments, although China and Russia notably refused to sign and argued it was an attempt to distract from the management of the withdrawal by the United States.
Blinken said on Monday that the United States was relocating its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan to Doha, Qatar, after closing its embassy in Kabul earlier this month as the situation deteriorated.