Biden faces decision on Afghanistan airlift, Taliban edict

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By ROBERT BURNS and ELLEN KNICKMEYER

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. ramped up its round-the-clock airlift of evacuees from Afghanistan to its highest level yet connected Tuesday, but President Joe Biden faced a pressing determination connected whether to unopen down the monolithic subject airlifts successful a week, arsenic the Taliban are insistig.

Biden has been considering whether to widen his self-imposed deadline for completing the airlift by Aug. 31, taking into relationship the continued information threats, the Taliban’s absorption to an hold and the imaginable that not each Americans and at-risk Afghan allies tin beryllium evacuated by adjacent Tuesday.

America’s European allies arsenic good arsenic U.S. lawmakers, veterans groups and exile organizations are urging Biden to proceed the evacuations arsenic agelong arsenic needed to get retired each foreigners, Afghan allies and others astir astatine hazard from the Taliban.

At a quality league successful Kabul, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday his radical volition judge “no extensions” of the deadline.

Later Tuesday, the main Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said the subject volition request “at slightest respective days” to afloat retreat its respective 1000 troops and their instrumentality from Kabul. He said commanders are inactive aiming to permission by Aug. 31. He said determination is capable clip to get each Americans retired but was little circumstantial astir completing the evacuation of each at-risk Afghans.

“We judge we person the quality to get that done by the extremity of the month,” helium said, referring to the unspecified fig of American citizens who are seeking to leave. He said respective 100 were evacuated connected Monday and that “several thousand” person gotten retired since the airlift began. He would not beryllium much specific.

U.S. allies and different countries besides are conducting evacuations, and would person to unopen down their operations and permission earlier U.S. troops do.

About 21,600 radical were flown safely retired of Taliban-held Afghanistan successful the 24-hour play that ended aboriginal Tuesday, the White House said. That compares with astir 16,000 the erstwhile day.

Thirty-seven U.S. subject flights — 32 C-17s and 5 C-130s — carried astir 12,700 evacuees. An further 8,900 radical flew retired aboard 57 flights by U.S. allies.

Amid the tense cognition to get radical retired of the country, CIA Director William Burns secretly swooped into Kabul connected Monday to conscionable with the Taliban’s apical governmental leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, a U.S. authoritative told The Associated Press.

.The Washington Post archetypal reported Burns’ meeting. The U.S. authoritative aboriginal confirmed the gathering for the AP.

A 2020 woody struck by President Donald Trump and the Taliban initially acceptable a May deadline for U.S. troops to afloat retreat from Afghanistan, aft astir 20 years of warfare there. Biden extended the deadline to Aug. 31, but is adamant he, too, wants to extremity the U.S. subject relation successful Afghanistan, and is rejecting disapproval implicit the Taliban’s abrupt conquest of the state this period and the illness of the U.S.-backed authorities and military.

The U.S. risks renewed attacks by the Taliban if its forces enactment past the Aug. 31 deadline.

The elder U.S. subject commandant astatine the Kabul airport, Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, has been communicating regular with Taliban commanders successful an effort to facilitate the evacuation, but the past known interaction betwixt the subject and Baradar was erstwhile Gen. Mark Milley, president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Doha, Qatar, to conscionable with him and different Taliban officials past December.

With entree to the airdrome inactive dangerous, U.S. chopper crews person been carrying retired sorties beyond the airdrome walls to retrieve evacuees, including 16 Americans connected Monday.

President Biden’s nationalist information adviser, Jake Sullivan, said astatine the White House connected Monday that talks with the Taliban were continuing arsenic the medication looks for further ways to safely determination much Americans and others into the Kabul airdrome by the end-of-August deadline.

He said yet it volition beryllium Biden’s determination unsocial whether to proceed military-led evacuation operations beyond Aug. 31.

California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, president of the House quality committee, told reporters aft a committee briefing Monday connected the Afghanistan withdrawal that “it was hard for maine to imagine” wrapping up the airlifts by the extremity of the month. He besides said it was wide determination had been “any fig of warnings” to the medication “of a precise accelerated takeover” by the Taliban.

After much than a week of evacuations plagued by large obstacles, including Taliban forces and crushing crowds that are making approaching the airdrome hard and dangerous, the fig of radical flown retired met — and exceeded — U.S. projections for the archetypal time.

The Pentagon said it has added a 4th U.S. subject base, successful New Jersey, to 3 others — successful Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin — that are prepared to temporarily location arriving Afghans. Maj. Gen. Hank Williams, the Joint Staff lawman manager for determination operations, told reporters determination are present astir 1,200 Afghans astatine those subject bases. The 4 bases combined are susceptible of lodging up to 25,000 evacuees, Kirby said.

Afghan evacuees continued to get astatine Dulles International Airport extracurricular of Washington. Exhaustion clouded the faces of galore of the adults. A writer asked 1 antheral however it felt to beryllium successful the U.S. “We are safe,” the antheral answered.

An older pistillate sank with alleviation into an offered wheelchair, and a small miss carried by an older lad shaded her eyes to look curiously around. The scramble to evacuate near galore arrivals carrying lone a bookbag oregon purse, oregon a integrative buying container of belongings.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who volition conscionable with Biden virtually connected Tuesday successful a G-7 leaders’ acme connected the chaotic withdrawal, had been expected to property Biden for an hold to get retired the maximum fig of foreigners and Afghan allies possible.

Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of much than 58,000 people.

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Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, Darlene Superville, Aamer Madhani, Lolita C. Baldor, Hope Yen, Alexandra Jaffe, James LaPorta, Jonathan Lemire, Matthew Lee and Dan Huff contributed to this report.

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