December 8, 2021

Biden speech today: President facing decision on Afghanistan airlift, Taliban deadline will hold press conference

WASHINGTON — The U.S. ramped up its round the clock airlift of evacuees from Afghanistan to its highest stage but on Tuesday, however President Joe Biden confronted a urgent decision on whether or not to close down the huge navy airlifts in per week, because the Taliban are insisting.

Biden has been contemplating whether or not to increase his self-imposed deadline for finishing the airlift by Aug. 31, taking into consideration the continued safety threats, the Taliban’s resistance to an extension and the prospect that not all Individuals and at-risk Afghan allies might be evacuated by subsequent Tuesday.

America’s European allies in addition to U.S. lawmakers, veterans teams and refugee organizations are urging Biden to proceed the evacuations so long as wanted to get out all foreigners, Afghan allies and others most in danger from the Taliban. At a information conference in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid mentioned Tuesday his group will settle for “no extensions” of the deadline.

Amid the tense operation to get individuals in a foreign country, CIA Director William Burns secretly swooped into Kabul on Monday to satisfy with the Taliban’s prime political chief, a U.S. official instructed The Related Press.

About 21,600 individuals have been flown safely out of Taliban-held Afghanistan within the 24-hour interval that ended early Tuesday, the White Home mentioned. That compares with about 16,000 the day prior to this.

Thirty-seven U.S. navy flights – 32 C-17s and 5 C-130s – carried about 12,700 evacuees. A further 8,900 individuals flew out aboard 57 flights by U.S. allies.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby mentioned Monday the quicker tempo of evacuation was partly because of coordination with Taliban commanders on getting evacuees into the airport.

“Thus far, and going forward, it does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban,” Kirby mentioned. “What we’ve seen is, this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.”

CIA Director Burns and Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s prime political chief, secretly met in Kabul on Monday because the evacuations continued. The Washington Submit first reported Burns’ assembly. The U.S. official later confirmed the assembly for the AP.

WATCH: Biden says 11,000 flown from Afghanistan over weekend

The senior U.S. navy commander on the Kabul airport, Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, has been speaking each day with Taliban commanders in an effort to facilitate the evacuation, however the final identified contact between the navy and Baradar was when Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees, flew to Doha, Qatar, to satisfy with him and different Taliban officers final December. Milley tried to influence the Taliban to scale back their assaults in opposition to Afghan forces, in the end to no avail.

With entry to the airport nonetheless tough Monday, the U.S. navy went past the perimeter to hold out one other helicopter retrieval of Individuals. U.S. officers mentioned a navy helicopter picked up 16 Americans Monday and introduced them to the airfield for evacuation. This was no less than the second such rescue mission past the airport; Kirby mentioned that final Thursday, three Military helicopters picked up 169 Individuals close to a resort simply past the airport gate and flew them onto the airfield.

President Joe Biden’s nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, mentioned on the White Home on Monday that talks with the Taliban have been persevering with because the administration appears for extra methods to securely transfer extra Individuals and others into the Kabul airport by the end-of-August deadline.

He mentioned in the end it will be Biden’s decision alone whether or not to proceed military-led evacuation operations past Aug. 31. That is the date Biden has set for finishing the withdrawal of troops.

California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the Home intelligence committee, instructed reporters after a committee briefing Monday on the Afghanistan withdrawal that “it was hard for me to imagine” wrapping up the airlifts by the tip of the month. He additionally mentioned it was clear there had been “any number of warnings” to the administration “of a very rapid takeover” by the Taliban.

After greater than per week of evacuations stricken by main obstacles, together with Taliban forces and crushing crowds which are making approaching the airport tough and harmful, the variety of individuals flown out met – and exceeded – U.S. projections for the primary time.

Military Gen. Stephen Lyons, head of U.S. Transportation Command, which manages the navy plane which are executing the Kabul airlift, instructed a Pentagon information conference that greater than 200 planes are concerned, together with aerial refueling planes, and that arriving planes are spending lower than an hour on the tarmac at Kabul earlier than loading and taking off. He mentioned the nonstop mission is taking a toll on aircrews.

“They’re tired,” Lyons mentioned of the crews.

On a optimistic observe, Lyons mentioned that along with the broadly reported case of an Afghan girl giving beginning aboard a U.S. evacuation plane, two different infants have been born in related circumstances. He didn’t present particulars.

The Pentagon mentioned it has added a fourth U.S. navy base, in New Jersey, to a few others – in Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin – which are ready to briefly home arriving Afghans. Maj. Gen. Hank Williams, the Joint Employees deputy director for regional operations, instructed reporters there at the moment are about 1,200 Afghans at these navy bases. The 4 bases mixed are able to housing as much as 25,000 evacuees, Kirby mentioned.

Afghan evacuees continued to reach at Dulles Worldwide Airport outdoors of Washington. Exhaustion clouded the faces of lots of the adults. A journalist requested one man the way it felt to be within the U.S. “We are safe,” the person answered.

An older girl sank with aid into an provided wheelchair, and a bit woman carried by an older boy shaded her eyes to look curiously round. The scramble to evacuate left many arrivals carrying solely a bookbag or purse, or a plastic procuring bag of belongings. Some arrived for his or her new lives fully empty-handed.

VIDEO: Marines pull child over barbed-wire wall at Kabul airport amid chaotic evacuations

Biden mentioned Sunday he wouldn’t rule out extending the evacuation past Aug. 31. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will meet with Biden nearly on Tuesday in a G-7 leaders’ summit on the chaotic withdrawal, is predicted to press Biden for an extension to get out the utmost variety of foreigners and Afghan allies doable.

Lawmakers, veterans organizations and refugee advocates within the U.S. are also urging Biden to maintain up the U.S. navy’s evacuation out of the Kabul airport so long as it takes to airlift not simply Individuals, however Afghan allies and different Afghans most in danger from the Taliban.

However Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, in an interview with Sky Information, mentioned that Aug. 31 is a “red line” the U.S. should not cross and that extending the American presence would “provoke a reaction.”

Monday’s warning signaled the Taliban might insist on shutting down the airlifts out of the Kabul airport in simply over per week. Lawmakers, refugee teams, veterans’ organizations and U.S. allies have mentioned ending the evacuation then might strand numerous Afghans and foreigners nonetheless hoping for flights out.

Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of greater than 58,000 individuals.

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Related Press writers Nomaan Service provider, Darlene Superville, Aamer Madhani, Lolita C. Baldor, Hope Yen, Alexandra Jaffe, James LaPorta, Jonathan Lemire, Matthew Lee and Dan Huff contributed to this report.