By Sebastian Hughes
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan refused to say at a press conference Tuesday whether U.S. troops would leave Kabul before the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies was completed.
“If the mission is not complete by Aug. 31, and there are Americans and Afghan allies who remain there, will U.S. troops stay until everyone is out or will they leave?” CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang asked Sullivan.
Sullivan said he was not going to get into “hypotheticals,” staying focused “on the task at hand, which is getting as many people out as rapidly as possible and we will take that day by day.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also didn’t answer when asked the same question. “Our focus right now is undoing the work at hand and on the task at hand,” she said.
There remain about 11,000 “self-identified” Americans in Afghanistan, Psaki said. Thousands of Afghans who aided the U.S. military remain trapped in the country and fear for their lives, The New York Times reported.
Others tried to pin this down, but Sullivan would not commit to having U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 08/31, even if some Americans and Afghan allies are still trying to leave. https://t.co/Z6v5M6d1Er
— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) August 17, 2021
“Our plan is to safely evacuate the people who worked with the United States who are eligible for special immigrant visas, which is a generous program set up on a bipartisan basis by our Congress,” Sullivan responded when asked again whether the U.S. would abandon allies after the Aug. 31 deadline set for the withdrawal of all troops.
“We have identified those individuals and families. We are making provision to have them come to the airport and get on evacuation flights out of the country,” he said. “That is what we are going to do between now and the end of the month.”
Biden said Monday the U.S. made it clear to the Taliban that if they “attack our personnel or disrupt our operation” there would be a “swift and forceful” response.
He said part of the reason the U.S. was slow to evacuate Afghan allies was due to some not wanting to leave the country.
Biden said the U.S. “gave them [Afghans] every chance to determine their own future.”
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