Biden confirms deadline for Afghanistan evacuation
Afghans on Wednesday faced an increasingly desperate race to escape life under the Taliban as the United States confirmed evacuations will end next week.
The US clashed with some of its closest allies over President Joe Biden’s insistence on sticking to an Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal date.
More than 70,000 people have already been evacuated, but huge crowds remain outside Kabul airport hoping to flee the threat of reprisals and repression in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Biden’s confirmation of US-led evacuations will shut down a frantic international evacuation effort from Taliban rule.
"The sooner we can finish, the better... each day of operations brings added risk to our troops," Biden said Tuesday.
"We are currently on the pace to finish by August 31."
Biden insisted after virtual talks with leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised democracies on Tuesday that the US and its closest allies would "stand shoulder to shoulder” in future action over Afghanistan and the Taliban, despite disappointing them in their urgent pleas now to allow time for more airlifts.
Washington and its allies have been flying out thousands of such Afghans every day on hulking military transports, but it has become an increasingly difficult and desperate task.
The Afghan capital's airport has been gripped by chaos as US-led troops try to maintain a secure perimeter for evacuation flights, surrounded by desperate Afghans.
Following their lightning victory that stunned the world, the Taliban have so far been content to allow the US-led operation to continue, focusing instead on consolidating control and forming a government.
They have vowed a softer, more inclusive regime this time around, offering amnesty to opponents and assurances of rights to women.
But many Afghans remain fearful and sceptical.
In an attempt to assuage fears, the Taliban spokesman on Tuesday urged skilled Afghans to not flee, saying the country needed "expert" Afghans such as doctors and engineers.
But Zabihullah Mujahid added that women who work for the Afghan government should stay home until the security situation improves.
The Taliban have said women will be able to get an education and work, but within what they consider Islamic bounds.