Andrew Caballero Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
President Biden said Sunday that the United States has evacuated nearly 28,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14, including about 11,000 people in about 36 hours over the weekend.
In a televised address from the White House, Biden reiterated that “any American who wants to go home will come home,” despite the hasty US withdrawal that has left thousands of US citizens and US Afghan allies trying to flee a country now under Taliban rule. monitoring.
Biden said the administration’s first priority in Kabul was to get American citizens out as quickly as possible and that the United States had expanded a “safe zone” around the airport. He said the US used phones, emails, and other forms of communication to locate Americans and try to get them to the US compound.
“It’s an incredible process,” Biden said. But, he added, “evacuating thousands of people from Kabul will be arduous and painful” no matter when it began. “There is no way to evacuate so many people without pain and loss,” Biden said.
Thousands of Afghans, including many who helped the US military in the war, crowded outside Kabul’s airport, risking beatings at the hands of Taliban fighters hoping to board a plane outside the country. some were stomped or strangled in the crowds. The US military controls the airport, but the Taliban controls the rest of the city and almost all of the country.
earlier on Sunday, The White House said And 23 US flights evacuated about 3,900 people from the country, and 35 coalition planes evacuated another 3,900 from Saturday to Sunday.
The United States has expanded the safe zone around Kabul airport
Biden said the United States has expanded the “safe zone” around the airport to expand access to people trying to get out of the country, though he didn’t go into specifics about what exactly that would entail. “We’ve been working very hard to make sure we’ve increased the capacity to get them out,” including changing “gate operations,” he said, and that’s why they’ve been able to increase the number of people going out.
The Taliban have vowed to allow safe passage for US citizens and Afghans seeking to leave the country, but people have often been stopped or beaten while trying to reach the airport. The Taliban set up checkpoints.
Biden said talks with the Taliban “cooperated in laying some perimeter” around the airport.
In response to a reporter asking if Biden could trust the Taliban’s promises, he said, “I don’t trust anyone, including you.”
Biden said that if the Taliban wanted to help the Afghan people, they would need additional help, including economic assistance. “The Taliban said – we’ll see if they mean it or not – they are seeking legitimacy,” he said. According to Biden, the Taliban does not want the United States to completely eliminate its diplomatic presence. But for now, he said, “It’s all just talk.”
Biden said Taliban fighters have so far not taken action against US forces, and “largely” followed what they said regarding letting the Americans pass. “So we’ll see. We’ll see if what they say will be true or not.”
Biden has also repeatedly emphasized the danger still faced by American soldiers and innocent civilians. “We have a long way to go, and there is still a lot that can go wrong.” He noted that terrorists, including ISIS and the Afghan group known as ISIS-Khorasan, may “seek to exploit the situation including attempting remote strikes.”
Planes don’t come directly to America
Biden said the planes don’t fly directly to the United States, but to processing plants in more than two dozen countries across four continents. This allows the United States to screen and process evacuees, and provides a safe place for special immigrant visa applicants and others to complete their paperwork while the United States completes security and background checks, he said.
The United States also activated the first phase of the . program Civilian air reserve fleet The programme, which was designed after the Berlin Airlift in World War II, relies on the voluntary efforts of commercial aircraft to transport people from staging centers to the United States or a third country.
Biden said planes taking off from Kabul land at military bases and transit centers around the world, where the United States conducts security screening of anyone who is not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. “Once we have been screened and purged, we will welcome those Afghans who have helped us in the war effort for the past 20 years, into their new home in the USA. Because that’s what we are. This is America.”
Biden said he still hoped to meet the August 31 evacuation deadline from Kabul, although he had previously said it could be extended.