Biden Vows To Keep Troops in Kabul Until the Last American Is Evacuated
Aug. 19 , 2021 (EIRNS)—President Joe Biden vowed yesterday that U.S. troops will stay at the Kabul airport until the last American who wants to leave has been evacuated. “If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,” Biden told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview. U.S. officials estimate that there are more than 10,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who want to leave, along with 50,000 to 65,000 Afghan allies also waiting to be evacuated. Biden vowed that the U.S. will do “everything in our power to get all Americans out and our allies out,” but acknowledged that doing so by the end of the month would require significantly increasing the number of individuals evacuated on flights each day.
“Are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?” Stephanopoulos asked. “Yes,” Biden responded. As for the Aug. 31 deadline, Biden said that “Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before Aug. 31.”
The problem, however, seems to be that the operation hasn’t yet ramped up to the capacity to bring out all of those people by Aug. 31. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, during a joint press conference yesterday with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, said that there had been 20 C-17 flights out of Kabul during the previous 24 hours. “We’ve already evacuated approximately 5,000 people, and we intend to increase it,” Milley said. The State Department, he said, “is working to rapidly increase the flow of passengers available to get out on the aircraft, and we are fully supporting them with our military personnel at the entrance gates.”
During an earlier Aug. 18 press briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby indicated that in the 24 hours up to 0300 EDT Aug. 18, there were 18 C-17s that had departed, carrying about 2,000 passengers, 325 of whom were American, the remainder being Afghan and some NATO personnel. “In the next 24 hours, the scheduled airlift numbers will be similar to the last 24 hours,” he said. That’s obviously well short of 5,000 to 9,000 passengers per day that Kirby had been saying is the capacity goal of the operation. “We’re simply trying to get as many people out as we can. And there are—there are lots of factors that affect the numbers,” he said.
There are also reports that there are people, foreigners and Afghans alike, who want to leave but can’t get to the airport. Austin indicated that there is no plan to send forces out into the city to gather up those Americans who are stranded in Kabul or elsewhere in the country. “The forces”—now numbering about 4,500 troops—“that we have are focused on the security of the airfield,” he said. “And you know how important that is, and you know what happens if we—if we lose the ability to provide that security.”
Milley further said that the State Department is working with the Taliban to facilitate safe passage of Americans to the airport and that’s the primary effort. The U.S. military itself won’t go around Kabul gathering up Americans wanting to leave. The State Department itself said yesterday that it can’t guarantee safe passage for Americans to the airport. “The United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the embassy emphasized in all capital letters, in its security alert issued Aug. 18. “Please be advised that a significant number of individuals have registered and space on these flights is available on a first come, first serve basis....” the embassy’s alert said, and further stressed: “The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport.”