President Biden has vowed to keep troops at the Kabul airport until all US citizens in Afghanistan that want to leave are evacuated, even if it means staying beyond his August 31st withdrawal deadline. The Pentagon said Friday that if the US wants to keep troops after August 31st, it would require more talks with the Taliban.
“That would require additional conversations with the Taliban, as well, but I don’t believe that those conversations have happened at this point,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. He said staying after Biden’s deadline would require a “certain measure of agreement with the Taliban.”
But so far, no decision has been made to keep troops beyond the 31st. “We are focused on doing everything we can inside that deadline to move as many people out as possible,” Kirby said.
President Biden said Friday that the US is in “constant contact” with the Taliban. The US is relying on the Taliban to allow US citizens safe passage to the Kabul airport. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reportedly told lawmakers Congress that there were instances where Americans were harassed or beaten by the Taliban.
But for the most part, US citizens with passports have been able to get to the airport. “With the exception of those cases, we continue to see Americans and appropriately credentialed Afghans continue to move through,” Austin said.
Critics of the withdrawal are going after Biden for relying so much on cooperation with the Taliban. But the fact is, the US has been engaged in diplomatic talks with the Taliban since at least 2018. And since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in Doha in February 2020, the Taliban has upheld its pledge not to attack American forces. At this point, it’s in the Taliban’s interest to allow the US to complete the evacuation and leave the country.