After threats from the Taliban, President Biden is sticking to his plan to withdraw the last U.S. forces from Afghanistan by August 31st while thousands of Americans remain in the country.
Amidst questions over the efficacy of the Biden administration’s evacuation plan, the president has suggested U.S. troops might stay beyond the deadline. However, after the Taliban threatened “consequences” if the U.S. stayed past August 31st, Biden committed to the deadline.
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that … If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said. “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”
CNN reported, “Biden made the decision mindful of the security risks in remaining the country longer … and he has asked for contingency plans in case he determines at a later date the US needs to remain in the country for longer.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban has blocked roads to the airport, preventing Afghans and Americans from getting there for evacuation.
“An Afghan who worked for a Western organization and tried to reach the airport said he had been told by the Taliban fighters manning the checkpoint that they are under orders to only let through convoys organized by foreign embassies,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Individuals, even if holding valid travel documents, were being turned away.”
Tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the United States and face punishment from the Taliban remain in the country, along with thousands more Americans. The Wall Street Journal reported “countless Afghans who thought the U.S. would protect them after having assisted the U.S.-led coalition forces in the past two decades are now realizing that they will most likely be left behind to face Taliban wrath alone.”
Aid organizations have been told evacuation flights won’t continue past Friday, August 27th, because the United States military will need the remaining days to remove equipment and troops from Kabul.
Private rescue efforts to save U.S. citizens and allies are facing increasing obstacles as the window for evacuation narrows.
“Chartered planes are flying out of Kabul with hundreds of empty seats … The biggest challenge the groups faced was getting people with seats on the charter planes through the gauntlet of Taliban checkpoints, crushing crowds at the airport entrances, and U.S. forces who refuse to let manifested passengers in,” per The Wall Street Journal.
In just one of many examples, Washington-based development firm Sayara International charted three planes to evacuate 1,000 Afghan refugees to Uganda, but then “it ran into a series of obstacles. Marines at the airport gates refused to allow Afghans with seats on the plane to get inside. At one point, Sayara started charging some passengers for seats to fill a cash shortfall it needed to plug before they could fly out of the country, Mr. Abi-Habib said. One Ugandan woman had to crawl through a sewage pipe to get into the airport, he added,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
After days of unsuccessfully trying to fix the issues, the 345-seat plane flew out of Kabul with only 50 passengers.
The private charities and groups that have been trying to evacuate U.S. citizens and allies have been praised, but their efforts are also emblematic of the failure of the Biden administration.
A leader of an organization working to increase evacuations told NBC News, “There’s been an outpouring. It’s inspiring, but on the other hand, it is a damning reflection on the failure of the U.S. that private citizens are having to step in to do what the government with all its billions and trillions has failed to do.”