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Frantic rescue is underway in Kabul, but White House can’t say how long it will last


Biden administration officials said Tuesday the rescue operation underway to evacuate American citizens and vulnerable Afghan nationals from Kabul was evidence of its commitment to resolve a growing humanitarian crisis, but they would not guarantee the effort would continue beyond the end of the month.

That could leave thousands of Afghans who served alongside U.S. forces over the last 20 years behind, at risk of violent retribution from the country’s new Taliban leadership.

President Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters at the White House that the U.S. was in contact with the Taliban, which has guaranteed safe passage to the airport for those who want to leave Afghanistan. He declined to say whether rescue operations would continue after Aug. 31, Biden’s deadline for the Pentagon to complete the drawdown of U.S. troops.

“I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals,” Sullivan said. “I’m going to stay 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.”

As the Taliban barreled into Kabul over the weekend, sooner than the administration had anticipated, the president dispatched U.S. forces to secure the Afghan capital’s airport and carry out the evacuation.

The swift mobilization of the Army’s 82nd Airborne, Sullivan said, showed the administration had, as Biden said in a defiant speech Monday, planned “for every contingency.” Many Republicans and Democrats contend, however, that the need for the 11th-hour rescue operation revealed otherwise.

Over 4,000 American troops have arrived in Kabul, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. military evacuated over 1,100 U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents and their families Tuesday, for a total of 3,200 people airlifted out of Afghanistan, the White House said.

Nearly 2,000 Afghans who assisted the U.S. military and government have been relocated to the U.S., the administration said.

It’s unclear how many people can be evacuated in the next two weeks. Over 11,000 American citizens are in Afghanistan, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. And at least 30,000 Afghan nationals who aided the U.S. effort over the last two decades are desperate to flee.