(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government’s collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.
The U.S. has evacuated approximately 17,000 people since Aug. 14, White House officials said late Saturday morning. Pentagon officials have said their focus remains on maintaining the airport perimeter and increasing the number of evacuees out of Kabul.
President Joe Biden returned to Washington from Camp David on Wednesday and sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He addressed the nation on evacuation efforts Friday.
Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:
Aug 23, 5:28 am
Taliban warns of ‘consequences’ if Biden extends withdrawal deadline: ‘It’s a red line’
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News that Aug. 31, the date Biden has set for completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, is a “red line” and extending it would “provoke a reaction.”
The U.S. president said Sunday he would not rule out extending the withdrawal deadline beyond Aug. 31, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly expected to urge Biden for an extension. But the Taliban spokesman warned “there would be consequences.”
“President Biden announced that on the 31st of August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Shaheen said in a recent interview with Sky News. “I think it will deteriorate the relation that will create mistrust between us.”
Aug 23, 5:05 am
At least 1 killed, 3 wounded in gunfight at Kabul airport
One Afghan soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a shootout with unidentified attackers at the international airport in Kabul on Monday morning, the German military announced via Twitter.
Both German and American forces returned fire when the shooting erupted at the north gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. No German soldiers were hurt in the exchange, according to the German military.
The U.S. military is aware of an incident at one of the gates, a defense official told ABC News.
The deadly gun battle occurred as the United States and other Western nations oversaw the evacuation of thousands of Afghan nationals and foreigners desperate to flee the Taliban-controlled country.
Aug 22, 10:48 pm
Southwest to begin domestic refugee flights
Joining other international airlines like United, Delta and American, Southwest Airlines announced Sunday that it will work with the Department of Defense to help transport domestic refugees from Afghanistan.
“We are proud to support our military’s critical humanitarian airlift mission, and we are grateful to our Employees for demonstrating an eagerness to support these military efforts, once again displaying their true Southwest Heart,” the company said in a statement Sunday.
Southwest said it plans to operate four of these types of flights on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
“Of course, the Southwest Team stands ready to provide additional support to the Department of Defense, if needed,” the company said.
Aug 22, 5:34 pm
Biden again defends decision to withdraw
The president pushed back against critics who questioned his timing about pulling American forces from Afghanistan.
Biden reiterated that the 20-year war has already left 2,448 Americans dead and 20,722 wounded and cost $300 million a day.
“Either increase the number of forces we keep there and keep that going, or I end the war. I decided to end the war,” he said.
The president stressed that America will remain vigilant against overseas terrorists.
“So the question is, when is the right time to leave? Where are our national interests? Where do they lie?” Biden asked.
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