Biden says as many as 15,000 Americans looking to flee Afghanistan
As many as 15,000 American citizens may remain inside Afghanistan, struggling to get out, days after the Asian nation fell to control of Taliban terrorists, President Biden said Wednesday.
Also looking to flee are tens of thousands of Afghan citizens who fought alongside or aided U.S. troops over the past two decades – and now fear retribution from the terrorist organization now wielding power in the country, The Associated Press reported.
Biden said the U.S. was committed to getting every American out of Afghanistan – even if that meant some U.S. troops would remain in the country beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for their withdrawal after a two-decade-long military operation.
But, “Americans should understand that we’re gonna try to get it done before Aug. 31st,” Biden insisted during an interview with ABC News.
Earlier this week, a Biden assertion that some Afghans were “still hopeful for their country,” and didn’t want to leave, was widely criticized. The U.S. State Department confirmed a backlog of tens of thousands of visa applications from Afghans who have been trying for years to leave the country ahead of the Aug. 31 U.S. pullout deadline.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denied reports that U.S. intelligence personnel had warned that the situation in Afghanistan could deteriorate rapidly – just as it did last Sunday as Taliban fighters moved in on Kabul, the capital.
“There was nothing that I, or anybody else, saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” Milley told reporters at a news briefing in Washington, referring to Afghan forces aided by the U.S. and the country’s leadership prior to the Taliban takeover.
Milley said about 4,500 U.S. troops were currently on the ground securing the airport and made clear that any U.S. citizen wanting to leave Afghanistan will have an opportunity to do so – as would any Afghan allies that have helped with the 20-year U.S. effort in the country.
Milley said some 5,000 people had already been evacuated, adding the U.S. military will have the capability of increasing the pace of evacuations when the State Department “makes evacuees available.”