During Tuesday’s White House press conference, Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan refused to answer if the Biden administration would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the evacuation of Americans was complete.
Early in the press conference, a reporter asked if evacuations were not complete by “August 31st and there are Americans and Afghan allies who remain there, will U.S. troops stay until everyone is out or will they leave?”
“So I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals,” Sullivan responded. “What I’m going to do is stay focused on the task at hand, which is getting as many people out as rapidly as possible and we will take that day by day.”
“So, you can’t commit to bringing back every American home?” the reporter asked.
At that point, Sullivan called on another reporter.
Later in the press conference, another reporter asked Psaki for “any guarantee” that U.S. troops will help evacuate Americans trapped in Afghanistan by the Taliban past the end of the month.
“I know we all tried to ask Jake this question, but can you offer any guarantee to the Americans and Afghan allies that if they remain there past the end of the month, U.S. troops will help them evacuate past the end of the month?” the reporter asked.
“Our focus right now is on doing the work at hand and on the task at hand,” Psaki responded. “And that is day by day, getting as many American citizens, as many SIV [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants, as many members of vulnerable population who are eligible to be evacuated, to the airport and out on planes.”
“And we’re going to do that in an expeditious fashion,” Psaki added. “That is the focus of the president of our Secretary of Defense, have our Secretary of State and everybody on our national security team. So that is where we will keep our efforts.”
The Biden administration was able to evacuate between 700 and 800 people on Monday, with about 150 of the evacuees being Americans. There are currently around 15,000 Americans still trapped in Afghanistan, and there is no plan as of Tuesday for evacuating Americans outside of Kabul.
The Taliban have reportedly beaten and turned away those who have attempted to travel to the Kabul airport for evacuation. The Wall Street Journal reported, “as of Tuesday afternoon many thousands of Afghans who had been employed by Western embassies and nongovernment organizations in Kabul remained stranded and unable to reach Hamid Karzai International Airport for evacuation flights as the Taliban erected checkpoints at airport entrances, whipping and beating Afghans who attempted to cross.”