Biden keeps to Kabul Aug. 31 deadline despite criticism

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By JONATHAN LEMIRE, ROBERT BURNS AND RAHIM FAIEZ

U.S. President Joe Biden declared Tuesday helium is sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline for completing a risky airlift of Americans, endangered Afghans and others seeking to flight Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The determination defies allied leaders who privation to springiness the evacuation much time, and opens Biden to disapproval that helium caved to Taliban deadline demands.

“Every time we’re connected the crushed is different time that we cognize ISIS-K is seeking to people the airdrome and onslaught some america and allied forces and guiltless civilians,” Biden said astatine the White House, referring to the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, which is known for staging termination attacks connected civilians.

He said the Taliban are cooperating and information is holding contempt a fig of convulsive incidents. “But it’s a tenuous situation,” helium said, adding, “We tally a superior hazard of it breaking down arsenic clip goes on.”

The United States successful caller days has ramped up its airlift amid caller reports of rights abuses that substance interest astir the destiny of thousands of radical who fearfulness retribution from the Taliban and are trying to fly the country.

Biden said helium had asked the Pentagon and State Department for evacuation contingency plans that would set the timeline for afloat withdrawal should that go necessary.

Pentagon officials expressed assurance the airlift tin get each Americans retired by adjacent Tuesday, the deadline Biden had acceptable agelong earlier the Taliban completed their takeover. But chartless thousands of different overseas nationals stay successful Afghanistan and are struggling to get out.

The Taliban, who person wrested power of the state backmost astir 20 years aft being ousted successful a U.S.-led penetration aft the 9/11 attacks, importune the airlift indispensable extremity connected Aug. 31. Any determination by Biden to enactment longer could reignite a warfare betwixt the militants and the astir 5,800 American troops who are executing the airlift astatine Kabul airport.

In Kabul, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told a quality league the U.S. indispensable instrumentality to its self-imposed deadline, saying “after that we won’t fto Afghans beryllium taken out” connected evacuation flights. He besides said the Taliban would barroom Afghans from accessing roads to the airport, portion allowing foreigners to walk successful bid to forestall ample crowds from massing.

In Washington, White House property caput Jen Psaki said Biden, whose handling of the hastily arranged evacuation has been roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike, announced during a gathering of chap leaders of the G-7 industrialized nations that helium planned to instrumentality to the Aug. 31 deadline. British, French and different officials argued for extending the deadline, officials said.

At the Pentagon, spokesperson John Kirby said Aug. 31 leaves capable clip to get each Americans out, but helium was little circumstantial astir completing the evacuation of each at-risk Afghans. He said astir 4,000 American passport holders and their household members had been evacuated from Kabul arsenic of Tuesday.

“We expect that fig to turn successful coming days,” Kirby said. He besides said the subject would person to commencement moving troops and their instrumentality retired of Kabul respective days anterior to Aug. 31 successful bid to beryllium retired wholly by then.

It’s unclear however galore Americans who privation to permission are inactive successful the country, but their presumption is simply a blistery governmental taxable for Biden. Some Republicans bristled Tuesday astatine the U.S. seeming to comply with a Taliban edict. “We request to person the apical precedence to archer the Taliban that we’re going to get each of our radical out, careless of what timeline was initially set,” said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

And Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, president of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday that “it was hard for maine to imagine” wrapping up the airlifts by the extremity of the month.

Biden decided successful April that helium was ending the U.S. war, which began successful October 2001. Former President Donald Trump had earlier agreed successful negotiations with the Taliban to extremity the warfare successful May.

However, Biden waited until the Taliban had swept to powerfulness this month, pursuing the illness of the U.S.-backed authorities and its army, to statesman executing an airlift.

Tragic scenes astatine the airdrome person transfixed the world. Afghans poured onto the tarmac past week and immoderate clung to a U.S. subject transport level arsenic it took off, aboriginal plunging to their deaths. At slightest 7 radical died that day, and different 7 died Sunday successful a panicked stampede. An Afghan solider was killed Monday successful a gunfight.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Group of Seven nations volition not admit a Taliban authorities unless it guarantees radical tin permission the state if they wish, some earlier and aft the August deadline. A time earlier, the manager of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, met with a apical Taliban person successful Kabul. The bonzer gathering reflected the gravity of the situation and America’s request to coordinate with a Taliban radical it has accused of gross quality rights abuses.

For now, the U.S. subject coordinates each aerial postulation successful and retired of the Kabul airport, but the Taliban volition instrumentality implicit determination aft the planned U.S. pullout, Mujahid said. It’s unclear erstwhile commercialized flights mightiness resume, putting unit connected the existent evacuation efforts to get arsenic galore radical retired arsenic possible.

About 21,600 radical were flown retired successful the 24-hour play that ended aboriginal Tuesday, the White House said — reflecting a important summation arsenic the airlift accelerates.

Meanwhile, a U.S. authoritative said Burns, the CIA director, met with Taliban person Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — an bonzer infinitesimal for the U.S. spy agency, which for 2 decades targeted the Taliban successful paramilitary operations. It was not wide what precisely they discussed.

The CIA partnered with Pakistani forces to apprehension Baradar successful 2010, and helium spent 8 years successful a Pakistani situation earlier the Trump medication persuaded Pakistan to merchandise him successful 2018 up of U.S. bid talks with the Taliban.

Mujahid, meanwhile, pushed backmost connected the thought that Afghans request to flee, arguing that the Taliban person brought bid and information to the country. He said the main occupation was the chaos astatine the airport, and helium accused the U.S. of luring distant engineers, doctors and different professionals connected which the state relies.

Earlier, U.N. quality rights main Michelle Bachelet said she had credible reports of “summary executions” of civilians and erstwhile information forces who were nary longer fighting, the recruitment of kid soldiers and restrictions connected the rights of women to determination astir freely and of girls to spell to school.

She did not specify the timing oregon root of her reports.

It has been hard to find however wide abuses mightiness beryllium and whether they contradict the Taliban’s nationalist statements oregon bespeak disunity successful its ranks.

From 1996 until the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban mostly confined women to their homes, banned tv and music, chopped disconnected the hands of suspected thieves and held nationalist executions.

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Burns reported from Washington, Lemire from Lowell, Massachusetts., Faiez from Istanbul. Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer and Matthew Lee successful Washington, Jon Gambrell successful Dubai, Jamey Keaten successful Geneva and Jill Lawless successful London contributed to this report.

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