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Biden hints US forces may stay in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31

In this image courtesy of the US Central Command Public Affairs, Afghans are evacuated by the US military on August 19, 2021, at an undisclosed location. (AFP photo)

US President Joe Biden says Washington is considering maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 deadline.

The US chaotic withdrawal from the war-ravaged country has led to mounting pressure on the Biden administration as evacuation of Americans lag due to Taliban presence in the capital Kabul.

"There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending," Biden said. "Our hope is we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process."

The US president further asserted that there is no way to withdraw American forces and personnel from Afghanistan “without pain.”

"Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began," Biden said. "Would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and the heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul."

According to the White House, the US has evacuated around 25,100 people from Afghanistan over the past week but that has not lessoned bipartisan and international criticism directed at the Biden administration over the Taliban return to power.

"We have constantly ... increased rational access to the airport where more folks can get there more safely," Biden claimed. "It’s still a dangerous operation, but I don’t want to go into the detail of how we’re doing that."

Aug. 31 was supposed to mark the end of the withdrawal of foreign forces, two decades after launching an invasion.

The United States and its allies attacked Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of the so-called war on terror.

Since former President George W. Bush launched the war in 2001, all American leaders have announced a soon-to-happen full withdrawal, which has not yet materialized.

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