U.S. President Joe Biden pledged on August 20 to get all Americans out of Afghanistan as his administration faced criticism at home and abroad for its chaotic handling of the U.S. withdrawal with the Taliban suddenly seizing control of Kabul last weekend.
In remarks from the White House, Biden maintained the U.S.-led evacuation had made “significant progress” with 6,000 troops in control of Kabul airport enabling a steady stream of evacuation flights after initial chaos briefly suspended flights earlier in the week.
“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history,” the president said, adding that there is close cooperation with allies, partners, and NATO.
The president said all Americans would be evacuated and committed to ensuring that thousands of Afghans who worked with U.S.-led international forces and other vulnerable people such as women leaders and journalists would be brought to safety.
Biden said U.S. forces had airlifted 13,000 people out of Afghanistan since August 14, and 18,000 since last month, with thousands more evacuated on private charter flights "facilitated by the U.S. government."
Thousands of Afghans have been flocking outside Kabul’s airport desperate to get on planes, with some reports of Taliban fighters blocking, threatening, or beating those trying to reach the airport. Thousands more are inside the airport, waiting to be evacuated.
Echoing recent remarks from the Pentagon, the president said there was no indication that U.S. citizens were being blocked from leaving by the Taliban. Biden said that U.S officials were in regular contact with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for Americans and others.
In the first known case of U.S. forces exiting the airport to rescue Americans since the Taliban takeover, the Pentagon said on August 20 that it had deployed three Chinook transport helicopters to rescue 169 Americans at a hotel who were unable to reach the Kabul airport gates.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the group had planned to walk a short distance from the hotel to the airport, but a crowd was gathered there and U.S. officials were concerned for the Americans' safety.
LISTEN: Reporter In Kabul Describes Scenes Of Desperation
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late on August 20 that 13 countries have so far agreed to at least temporarily host at-risk Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan and a dozen more have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees, including Americans and others.
Blinken said that potential Afghan refugees not already cleared for resettlement in the United States will be housed at facilities in Albania, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Uganda.
Transit countries include Bahrain, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.