President Joe Biden suggested for the first time on Wednesday (Aug. 18) that U.S. troops may stay in Afghanistan past his administration’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. In an interview with ABC News, Biden said U.S. troops will not leave the Taliban-controlled country until all American citizens have been evacuated.
“Americans should understand that we’re going to try and get it done before Aug. 31,” he told reporters. However, he added, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”
According to BBC; up to 15,000 Americans are still stranded in Afghanistan. Along with evacuating U.S. citizens, Biden’s administration estimates that between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghan partners, such as former military translators, and their families are trying to get out of the country. In order to help Afghan civilians and Americans, evacuations will need to ramp up, Biden said.
The U.S. military took control of the Karzai International Airport on Sunday (Aug. 15) after Kabul, the country’s capital, fell to the Taliban. As reported by REVOLT, heavily armed Taliban militants moved into the presidential palace in the city on Sunday after the collapse of the government under Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country.
Biden previously defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and doubled down on his stance on Wednesday. Last month, he claimed a Taliban takeover of the country was “highly unlikely.”
“I don’t think it was a failure,” the president said on Wednesday of the current situation. “When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government getting into a plane and taking off and going to another country. When you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained… that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.”
Meanwhile, CNN reports that Taliban militants imposed a curfew for “an indefinite amount of time” on Thursday (Aug. 19) after fighters clashed with protesters in Kabul. Residents will be mostly confined to their homes “while joint forces of the Islamic Emirate carry out clearance operations,” a source told the outlet.