Biden sticks to 31 August deadline
Joe Biden has rejected the pleas of domestic and international allies to keep troops in Afghanistan for evacuation efforts beyond the end of the month, citing the growing threat of a terrorist attack.
In a move likely to fuel criticism that America is abandoning Afghan partners to the Taliban, the US president made clear that he is resolved to withdraw forces from Kabul airport by next Tuesday’s deadline.
“We are currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st,” Biden said at the White House on Tuesday. “The sooner we can finish, the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”
The president acknowledged that completing the airlift – one of the biggest in history – by 31 August depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allowing access to the airport with no disruption to operations.
Biden also noted that he has asked the Pentagon and the state department for “contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary”.
He continued: “I’m determined to ensure that we complete our mission, this mission. I’m also mindful of the increasing risks that I’ve been briefed on and the need to factor those risks in.”
These “acute and growing” risks include possible terrorist attacks by Isis-K, the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate that is also a sworn enemy of the Taliban, he said. “Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that Isis-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US forces and allied forces and innocent civilians”: