President Biden said in an interview Wednesday that US troops will stay in Afghanistan until every American in the country who wants to leave has been evacuated even if the mission extends past August 31st, the date he set as a withdrawal deadline.
“Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before August 31st,” Biden said in an interview with ABC News. When asked if troops will stay beyond the deadline if US citizens were still in Afghanistan, Biden said, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”
There are currently 4,500 US troops at the Kabul airport, and the Pentagon has authorized for the deployment of about 6,000 in total, so more could be on the way.
It’s estimated that there are somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans remaining in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has stepped up its airlifts out of Kabul and is flying an average of about 20 C-17s out per day. So far, according to military officials, about 5,000 people have been evacuated.
Biden did not appear to give similar assurances for Washington’s Afghan allies who want to flee to the country. He estimated there are between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghan allies, including family members, who are also waiting to be evacuated.
When asked if the evacuation commitment holds for the Afghans, Biden appeared to dodge the question and said, “The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out,” he said.
When asked if the withdrawal could have been handled better, Biden said it couldn’t have happened without “chaos ensuing.”
“No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,” he said.
Considering how quickly the Afghan government collapsed, the withdrawal was going to be a mess whenever it happened. The only thing Biden could have done to make things go somewhat smoother would have been to stick to the original May 1st withdrawal deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal.