President Joe Biden will stick with his Aug. 31 deadline for completing the U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan, in part because of concerns about heightened security threats, an administration official said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
The Taliban had said it opposed extending the deadline. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday that his group will accept no extensions of the deadline.
Germanys top military commander, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, said Tuesday the U.S. and Germany were especially concerned about the possibility of ISIS suicide bombers slipping into crowds.
Biden said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 70,700 U.S. citizens, NATO and coalition personnel, Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas and others have been evacuated by the U.S. and its partner aircraft.
Biden held a virtual meeting on Tuesday morning with leaders from The Group of 7 nations to discuss continuing efforts to evacuate citizens, local staff, and vulnerable Afghans, and the need to forge a shared approach to Afghanistan policy, the White House said.
Biden had considered extending the Aug. 31 deadline after the U.K., France, and other allies said they need more time to evacuate. Our hope is that we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I expect, about how far along we are in the process, he said.
But the Taliban view any extension beyond Aug. 31 as a red line. In an interview with Sky News, a Taliban spokesperson said a delay would provoke a reaction. A Taliban official told The Wall Street Journal that We dont allow them their presence after that date.
The Taliban alsosaidTuesday that it will not allow Afghan nationals to leave the country and opposes extending evacuation flights beyond Aug. 31, CNBC reported.
We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahidtold reporterson Tuesday. They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all th! e resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline.
Complicating matters, the State Department doesnt know how many Americans are left in the country. According to the Journal, estimates range between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans before evacuations began. As of Monday, the U.S. has helped evacuate more than 37,000 people from Afghanistan, White House officials said.
Adding to the chaos, an unknown hostile actor shot an Afghan soldier at Kabuls international airport on Monday, and the Afghans returned fire in self-defense, said Navy Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. One Afghan soldier was killed and three were wounded.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the exact number of Americans is difficult to assess because many didnt register with the U.S. embassy when they arrived or left. Biden said people arriving on U.S. soil will have been fully screened and vetted at a staging location outside Afghanistan.
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