President Joe Biden on Sunday, Aug. 22, updated the evacuation operation in Afghanistan, stressing that “Any American who wants to get home will get home,” but said his administration could extend the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
In his remarks at the White House, Biden continued to defend the withdrawal plan, saying, “we have a long way to go, and a lot could still go wrong.”
“Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible. At my direction, the State Department continues to reach out to the remaining Americans we have identified by phone, e-mail, and other means to ascertain their whereabouts and their plans.”
“We’re executing a plan to move groups of these Americans to safety and to safely and effectively move them to the airport compound,” he said.
Biden said that his administration had evacuated nearly 28,000 people from Aug. 14 to Sunday morning on both U.S. and coalition aircraft, including civilian charters, bringing the total number of evacuees since July to approximately 33,000 persons.
The United States is bringing American citizens, NATO allies, and Afghanis who had helped the U.S. in the war effort, Biden said, admitting that the evacuation of thousands of people
from Kabul is now going to be hard.
Biden said that the security environment is changing rapidly and terrorists may seek to exploit this situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops.
“We’re working hard and as fast as we can to get people out. That’s our mission. That’s our goal. And our determination to get every American citizen home and to evacuate our Afghan allies is unwavering,” he said.
Biden revealed that his administration is considering extending an Aug. 31 deadline to exit Afghanistan though he said that “our hope is that we will not have to extend” it.
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” he replied to a question from a reporter.
The Biden administration has been facing criticism of how it handles the Afghanistan crisis after the Taliban took over the U.S–backed Afghan government one week earlier. Even a NBC News poll showed on Sunday that a vast majority of the surveyed said they disapprove of the president’s handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, with only 25% noting they approve of how he has dealt with it.