United States President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters while Vice President Kamala Harris looks on in the East Room of the White House in Washington, United States, on August 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will address the nation about the evacuation efforts in Kabul of American citizens, U.S. embassy staff, citizens of NATO countries, vulnerable Afghan citizens, as well as Afghan citizens who have qualified for special immigrant visas.
Biden’s remarks, slated for 1:00 p.m. ET, come as U.S. forces evacuate as many people as possible before setting a self-imposed deadline for departing Afghanistan of August 31. The remarks will be the President’s second public address on the crisis in less than a week.
“We will do everything in our power to get all Americans and our allies out,” Biden told ABC News earlier this week, adding that he may be considering extending the deadline for a full withdrawal.
The president defended his decision to withdraw US forces despite the mounting humanitarian crisis following the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, arguing that there was no way “to get out of it without chaos”.
Thousands of Afghans have fled the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to seek a flight out of the country after the Taliban quickly claimed control of the country.
Evacuees populate the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft that is bringing about 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021.
Courtesy Defense One | Handout via Reuters
Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters that the Pentagon is currently unable to safely escort Americans to the airport for evacuation.
“I currently do not have the opportunity to expand operations into Kabul,” said Austin when asked about those who cannot reach the airport gates because they are behind Taliban checkpoints.
The US is relying on an agreement with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for Americans. While the State Department has declared that the Taliban have met their obligations to ensure safe transit for US citizens, some Afghan nationals are being held up by the militants.
Read more about developments in Afghanistan:
The White House said on Friday that the US has flown about 9,000 people in cargo planes out of Kabul in the past six days.
On Friday, the U.S. military evacuated approximately 3,000 people, including 350 U.S. citizens, from the airport on 16 C-17 Globemaster military cargo flights.
Since the end of July, the US has evacuated around 14,000 people from Afghanistan, including American citizens, US embassy staff, citizens of NATO countries, vulnerable Afghan citizens, and Afghan citizens who have qualified for special immigrant visas.
A boy is processed through an Evacuee Control Checkpoint (ECC) during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan August 18, 2021. Photo taken on August 18, 2021.
US Marines | Reuters
The Pentagon previously said its goal is to move around 5,000 to 9,000 people from Kabul every day. US Army Major General William “Hank” Taylor said Thursday that the speed of departure depends on who is allowed to leave the country by the State Department.
Taylor expects a US military cargo plane to take off every hour. The Pentagon has now relocated around 5,000 US soldiers to Kabul to provide security and help with evacuation efforts.