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Biden likely to extend Afghanistan evacuation deadline beyond Aug 31

Amid deepening crisis in Afghanistan, United States President Joe Biden defended his move to withdraw troops from the country, saying history will record this as a ‘logical, rational, and right decision’.

The Biden administration has come under criticism from some quarters for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan as the Taliban captured power, resulting in chaos and deaths.

However, he stood by his decision.

“I think that history is going to record this was the logical, rational, and right decision to make,” he told reporters in an interaction at the White House.

Indian-American politician and former US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier in the day, “They (the US administration) have surrendered the American people and actually withdrew our troops before they withdrew the American people.

“They have abandoned our Afghan allies who kept people like my husband safe while they were overseas deploying. So, no, there was no negotiating. This was a complete and total surrender and an embarrassing failure.”

Biden said the Taliban has to make a fundamental decision.

“Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done?” he asked.

“And if it does, it’s going to need everything from additional help, in terms of economic assistance, trades, and a whole range of things,” he said.

“The Taliban has said — we will see whether they mean it or not — they’re seeking legitimacy. They’re seeking legitimacy to determine whether or not they will be recognized by other countries. They have told other countries, as well as us, they don’t want us to move our diplomatic presence completely. All of this is all just talk now,” said the US president.

He said that so far the Taliban has not taken action against US forces, by and large following through what they said in terms of allowing Americans to pass through, and the like.

“I’m sure they don’t control all of their forces. It’s a ragtag force. And so, we’ll see. We’ll see whether or not what they say turns out to be true,” Biden said.

Biden refused to rule out possible sanctions against the Taliban, saying ‘it depends on the conduct’ of the group.

“The answer is yes. It depends on the conduct,” Biden told reporters in Roosevelt Room when asked if he would support sanctions against Taliban under certain conditions.

Biden also informed that the US has extended the safe zone around the Kabul international airport and added that he is in discussions with US military officials about possibly extending the evacuation mission beyond the August 31 deadline.

“There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending, our hope is we will not have to extend,” Biden said during a press conference at the White House.

He said that in a 36-hour span, the US has lifted about 11,000 people out of Kabul.

“In a little over 30 hours this weekend, we’ve evacuated an extraordinary number of people, as I will detail in a minute: about 11,000 individuals. That number will change day to day as the air and ground operations in Kabul vary,” he said.

The first priority is getting American citizens out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible, he said.

“At my direction, the State Department continues to reach out to the remaining Americans we have identified by phone, e-mail, and other means to ascertain their whereabouts and their plans,” he added.

The US is also evacuating the citizens of NATO allies and its partners, including their diplomats, their embassy staff who remain in Afghanistan and to get them back to their homes as well.

“As we do this, we’re also working to move our Afghan allies, who stood with us side by side, and other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists, out of the country,” he added.

“As of this morning, we have evacuated nearly 28,000 people since August the 14th, on both U.S. and coalition aircraft, including civilian charters, bringing the total number of people we have evacuated since July to approximately 33,000 persons,” he said.

“In one 24-hour period this weekend, 23 US military flights — including 14 C-17s, 9 C-130 flights — left Kabul carrying 3,900 passengers. We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up. During the same period, our military facilitated another 35 charter flights carrying an additional nearly 4,000 evacuees to other countries that are taking them out,” he added.

— with ANI inputs

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