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Biden to stick with Aug. 31 deadline for Afghanistan evacuations

Biden to stick with Aug. 31 deadline for Afghanistan evacuations
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on on Afghanistan and the G7 in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said Tuesday he doesn't plan to extend his Aug. 31 deadline for all U.S. military personnel to be out of Afghanistan despite pleas by Group of Seven countries.

Biden made the announcement during remarks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. He said there are contingency plans to continue the evacuations after Aug. 31 if the Taliban allow it.

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"We are determined to complete this mission," Biden said, adding that the United States has helped some 70,000 people leave the country since Aug. 14.

"Another 19 U.S. military flights, 18 C-17s and one C-130 carrying approximately 6,400 evacuees, and 31 coalition flights carrying 5,600 people have left Kabul just in the last 12 hours -- a total of 50 more flights, 12,000 more people since I've updated you this morning," Biden said.

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Some U.S. lawmakers and Western allies have been pushing Biden to extend the deadline for all U.S. military personnel to leave the country, and Biden had previously expressed a willingness to do so.

In brief remarks before the G7 meeting, Biden cited safety for U.S. troops as a reason for leaving by the existing Aug. 31 deadline.

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National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the administration felt confident in the Aug. 31 deadline.

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"In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul," he said during a press briefing.

The Taliban, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that it opposes the extension of the evacuation deadline. It also banned Afghan nationals from leaving on the flights.

"We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters.

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The Americans "have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline," he added.

Mujahid said the Taliban have closed the route to the airport and it's preventing a crowd from forming because there might be a dangerous stampede.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G7 wants to evacuate people from Afghanistan as long as possible but can only do so with U.S. support.

"I have to emphasize that the U.S. has the lead here," she said after the G7 meeting. "Without the U.S., we can't continue with the evacuations, this must be made clear."

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Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, criticized Biden's decision to stick to the Aug. 31 deadline.

"The world just witnessed the president of the United States take orders from a band of barbaric terrorists while ignoring the pleas of our international allies and American citizens he will leave behind," he tweeted. "Joe Biden is a coward."

Tuesday's G7 meeting, a virtual summit, followed international criticism over the way Biden handled the Afghanistan withdrawal. The Taliban militant group swiftly took over control of the country this month and the U.S. government has been working to airlift the remaining citizens and Afghan aides out of an increasingly destabilized Afghanistan.

Officials have said about 5,800 U.S. troops are on the ground in Kabul assisting with the evacuation effort. CNN reported that roughly 6,500 people were waiting for flights early Tuesday.

NBC News and The Washington Post reported Tuesday that CIA Director William Burns met secretly on Monday with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Baradar was the Taliban's lead negotiator in peace talks with the United States in Qatar last year that resulted in an agreement with the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. forces.

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The Group of Seven, which includes six NATO-member nations and Japan, last met for a summit in Britain in June.

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