Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told a press conference Monday that he wants to complete the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by August 31, even though President Joe Biden has not ruled out extending the deadline.
“We are focused on finishing this by the end of the month,” Kirby said, noting that if an extension of the deadline is necessary, the Pentagon will offer options to President Biden to make the right decision.
The president said Sunday that he expects to complete the evacuation of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, although he warned that it could be extended given the danger at Kabul airport and the risk of terrorist attacks.
“There are discussions about the extension. Our hope is that we don’t have to,” Biden said yesterday at a White House conference.
Separately, Kirby confirmed that no U.S. soldiers were injured in the armed incident on Sunday next to the north gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport, where one Afghan policeman was killed and three others were wounded.
The spokesman explained that there was “an unknown hostile actor” without giving further details, after the German Army had previously reported this event without giving details on the authorship of the attack.
About 16,000 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours from Afghanistan through Kabul airport as international airlift operations accelerated ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline.
According to the latest data provided by the Department of Defense, 5,800 U.S. troops are currently deployed at the airport to ensure the safety of their Afghan nationals and partners.
Also, the number of people evacuated from Afghanistan since July stands at 42,000 and 37,000 since airlift operations began on Aug. 14, when the Taliban advanced to take Kabul.
So far, according to the Defense Department, the number of temporary safe haven sites in Europe and the Middle East stands at 14 and includes U.S. facilities in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany.