National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday would not firmly commit to US troops remaining in Afghanistan until all Americans and US allies are evacuated from the region beyond Aug. 31.
The Pentagon has estimated that roughly between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans remain in the country in addition to Afghan allies looking to flee the country in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country.
“I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals, what I’m going to do is stay focused on the task at hand, which is getting as many people out as rapidly as possible and we will take that day by day,” Sullivan said when asked if the military will continue its evacuation efforts beyond its current deadline.
While the situation has quickly deteriorated since the fall of the Afghan government on Sunday, Sullivan said the Taliban has pledged to allow for the safe passage of civilians to the airport, adding that they are in talks about the timetable to allow for evacuations.
“We are talking to them about what the exact timetable is for how this will all play out, and I don’t want to negotiate in public on working out the best modality to get the most people out in the most efficient way possible. By and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport,” he continued.
Sullivan remained vague on whether they could rely on the Taliban’s commitment.
“There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten. We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issue. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days.”
CBS News first reported that the State Department was not guaranteeing security for Americans as they make their trip to the airport.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki seconded Sullivan’s comments, refraining to provide a direct answer on whether troops would remain in place next month.
“Our focus right now is on doing the work at hand on the task at hand, and that is day by day,” Psaki said.
State Dept. Press Secretary Ned Price said Tuesday that civilians should “shelter in place until and unless you receive a communication from the US Embassy.”
The Biden administration has come under fire from both sides of the aisle over its handling of the troop withdrawal, with critics arguing the president has failed to take responsibility for chaos seen abroad, with critics accusing the administration of weakening national security and alienating US allies. But the administration has stood by its foreign policy position, arguing they felt the move prioritizes saving American lives.
“My heart goes out to Afghan women and girls in the country today. Under the Telephone, we’ve seen what they’ve done before. And that’s a very hard thing for any of us to face,” Sullivan said.
“But this wasn’t a choice just between saving those women and girls and not saving those women and girls. The alternative choice had its own set of human costs and consequences, as I said, and those human costs and consequences would have involved a substantial ramp up of American participation in a civil war with more loss of life and more bloodshed.”