US to continue diplomacy in Afghanistan after Aug. 31 if 'safe'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (C) leaves after addressing the first press conference in Kabul on August 17, 2021 following the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by AFP)

The United States remains open to keeping its diplomatic presence at Kabul's airport following a withdrawal deadline at the end of August if conditions permit, says a State Department spokesman.

"We are thinking about this in terms of August 31. If it is safe and responsible for us to potentially stay longer, that is something we may be able to look at," Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday.

This comes as the US and its Western allies have been having a hard time evacuating diplomats and civilians after Taliban forces swept back into power. The Taliban took over the capital Kabul on Sunday and declared the war in Afghanistan was over.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 US citizens are thought to remain in the Kabul area, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who said Tuesday the US could move between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of the capital per day.

He also said three US military bases were ready to accept up to 22,000 Afghan allies in the coming weeks.

Over 700 people, including more than 150 US citizens, were evacuated in the past 24 hours, according to Kirby.

Taliban vows to provide safe passage to Kabul airport: Biden adviser

The Taliban has told Washington it would provide safe passage for civilians to reach the airport in Kabul, according to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

"The Taliban have informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment," Sullivan said Tuesday.

Sullivan also said that Washington believes the Kabul evacuation can continue until Aug. 31 and that it is negotiating with the Taliban about the exact timetable.

"We believe that this can go till the 31st. 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," Sullivan told a White House news briefing.

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Jan Psaki, when asked about the consequences of the Taliban not sticking to its commitment on Tuesday, said, "The consequences are the full weight and force of the United States military, and I think we've made that clear."

‘Greatest embarrassment in US history’: Trump slates Biden’s Afghanistan move

Former US president Donald Trump has criticized his successor Joe Biden for the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“It’s a great thing that we’re getting out, but nobody has ever handled a withdrawal worse than Joe Biden," Trump said in a televised interview with Fox News on Tuesday. “This is the greatest embarrassment, I believe, in the history of our country."

There was chaos at Kabul’s international airport on Monday as massive groups of Afghan civilians stormed the tarmac of the airport, rushing toward a US military aircraft and clinging to its side, frantically trying to leave the country.

The Biden administration says the US has now secured the airport and cleared the way for Americans to evacuate, but Trump said there could be as many as 40,000 “potential hostages" left behind.

Trump, who had pledged to bring US troops home from Afghanistan, reached an agreement with the Taliban that set a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal with conditions.

Biden has defiantly defended his decision, but admitted the Afghan government fell more quickly than predicted. He said the Trump administration’s deal “left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001."

The Taliban are reportedly poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American forces following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and removed the Taliban from power. American forces occupied the country for about 20 years on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But as the US forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed into Kabul, weakened by foreign occupation.

Watchdog describes litany of US failures in Afghanistan mission

The United States failed to “develop and implement a coherent strategy” in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report on Tuesday.

Any gains “in life expectancy, the mortality of children under five, GDP [gross domestic product] per capita, and literacy rates” during the failed US mission were not “commensurate with the US investment or sustainable after a US drawdown,” wrote John Sopko, the special inspector general.

On Monday, Biden defended his decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, saying the US mission was never about nation-building, but rather aimed at “preventing a terrorist attack on [the] American homeland”.

“If the goal was to rebuild and leave a country that could sustain itself and pose little threat to US national security interests, the overall picture is bleak,” Sopko wrote in his report.

According to the report, US leaders failed to fully comprehend Afghanistan’s political dynamics and that their priorities were influenced by their own politics.

“US officials prioritized their own political preferences for what Afghanistan’s reconstruction should look like, rather than what they could realistically achieve,” the report said.

Sopko also said the US government’s bureaucratic disarray, counterproductive military and civilian personnel policies and practices resulted in “one of the most significant failures of the mission,” noting billions of dollars were “wasted” on unsustainable institutions and infrastructure projects.

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