As critics slammed his administration for not starting evacuations sooner, President Biden told Americans in Afghanistan on Friday that "we will get you home.” Tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies are still waiting to leave the country as the Aug. 31 deadline looms, the AP reports. Flights paused for a few hours Friday but have since resumed. Among the chaotic elements is a lack of organization and communication at the Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul. Biden said he isn’t willing to expand the security perimeter around the airport despite calls to do so from Congress, the BBC reports. Some members of Congress are also asking Biden to acknowledge that the deadline could be extended. From Biden's Friday statements:
- "This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history," he said. "Any Americans who wants to come home, we will get you home."
- "We're going to do everything, everything that we can, to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States. The United States stands by the commitment it made to these people."
- “We've seen gut-wrenching images of panic, people acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it's completely understandable. They're frightened or sad, uncertain what happens next. I don't think anyone of us can see these pictures, and not feel that pain on a human level."
- Biden also said the US has warned the Taliban that "any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with swift and forceful response."
About 6,000 US troops are in Afghanistan to facilitate the evacuation. Roughly 3,000 people—including 300 US citizens and their families—left Thursday, and around 14,000 total have been evacuated since the end of July, NBC News reports. That’s a lot of churn at the airport. Taliban shots were fired over crowds on Thursday, prompting a US Navy fighter jet to pass over the crowds, per the AP. Officials are also challenged by the head count—it’s not clear how many US citizens are still in the country, and how many people of other nationalities, including Afghan allies, are lining up to leave. (Read more Afghanistan exit strategy stories.)