Biden cites ‘increasing risks’ of delayed Afghan withdrawal

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday (August 24) that he told G7 leaders the United States is on pace to complete the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan by Aug. 31, but that doing so will depend on cooperation from the Taliban.

In a televised address after his G7 meeting, Biden said that meeting the Taliban must not disrupt U.S. operations or access to Kabul airport for the deadline to be met.

“I’ve asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary,” Biden said.

Biden sent thousands of U.S. troops to the Kabul airport after the Taliban militant group took over the city and much of the country less than two weeks ago.

The nearly 6,000 U.S. troops are helping to evacuate American citizens and at-risk Afghans and to protect the airport so other countries can evacuate their citizens as well.

The Pentagon made the recommendation that Biden stick to his Aug. 31 target date on Monday, U.S. officials said.

Biden also said that he is cognizant of “added risk” to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond August 31st, and cited a threat from ‘”ISISK”, an Islamic State affiliate.

“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISISK is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians,” Biden said.

U.S. officials said earlier that the United States has been in regular contact with the Taliban and officials are telling the group that the timeline is contingent on Taliban cooperation.

Biden sent CIA Director William Burns to meet Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday in the highest level official encounter since the militant group took over the Afghan capital, a U.S. official and a source familiar with government activity said on Tuesday.

A congressional source said Burns and Baradar had discussed the Aug. 31 date.

Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers said on Tuesday they wanted all foreign evacuations from the country completed by Aug. 31 and they would not agree to an extension as Group of Seven leaders met to discuss the crisis.

Western troops have been working frantically to get foreigners and Afghans onto planes and out of the country and Biden has faced growing pressure from allies to negotiate more time for the airlift.

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