US President Biden warns of IS threat to Kabul evacuation
Washington, Aug 23: US President Joe Biden has said the evacuation of Americans from the Kabul airport accelerated this weekend, but warned of threats posed by the Islamic State extremist group.
Biden said the Taliban has to make a fundamental decision. "Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done?" he asked.
"And if it does, it's going to need everything from additional help, in terms of economic assistance, trades, and a whole range of things," he said.
"The Taliban has said -- we will see whether they mean it or not -- they're seeking legitimacy. They're seeking legitimacy to determine whether or not they will be recognized by other countries. They have told other countries, as well as us, they don't want us to move our diplomatic presence completely. All of this is all just talk now," said the US president.
He said that so far the Taliban has not taken action against US forces, by and large following through what they said in terms of allowing Americans to pass through, and the like.
"I'm sure they don't control all of their forces. It's a ragtag force. And so, we''ll see. We'll see whether or not what they say turns out to be true," Biden said.
He said that in a 36-hour span, the US has lifted about 11,000 people out of Kabul. "In a little over 30 hours this weekend, we've evacuated an extraordinary number of people, as I will detail in a minute: about 11,000 individuals. That number will change day to day as the air and ground operations in Kabul vary,'' he said.
The first priority is getting American citizens out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible, he said.
"At my direction, the State Department continues to reach out to the remaining Americans we have identified by phone, e-mail, and other means to ascertain their whereabouts and their plans," he added.
The US is also evacuating the citizens of NATO allies and its partners, including their diplomats, their embassy staff who remain in Afghanistan and to get them back to their homes as well.
"As we do this, we're also working to move our Afghan allies, who stood with us side by side, and other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists, out of the country," he added.
"As of this morning, we have evacuated nearly 28,000 people since August the 14th, on both U.S. and coalition aircraft, including civilian charters, bringing the total number of people we have evacuated since July to approximately 33,000 persons," he said.
with PTI inputs