U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated a vow Friday to stay in Afghanistan until all American citizens who want to leave and Afghans who risked their lives working for the U.S. government during the conflict have been evacuated.
“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home. Make no mistake, this is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and is being conducted under difficult circumstances,” Biden said alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House.
Biden also said his administration would do “everything that we can” to safely evacuate “our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted.”
The president said the U.S. military evacuated 5,700 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday and 13,000 since August 14, the Saturday before the Taliban entered Kabul. He said a total of 18,000 people had been evacuated since the end of July.
Biden also said that U.S. forces went outside the airport gate in Kabul and brought 169 Americans “over the wall.” He noted that his administration worked with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to “successfully” evacuate 204 of their staff in the country.
The president said his administration was in constant contact with the Taliban to ensure safe evacuations while also issuing a warning.
“We made clear to the Taliban that any attack, any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with swift and forceful response,” Biden said.
The White House said Thursday that the evacuees were flown out on 16 flights by C-17 aircraft. The White House said the evacuees included 350 U.S. citizens, their family members, vulnerable Afghans and applicants for special immigrant visas and their families.
A statement Friday said that in the previous 24 hours, the U.S. military had also helped the departure of 11 charter flights. The passengers on those charter flights were not included in the totals above.
Biden met with his national security team on the situation in Afghanistan early Friday, before making remarks on the evacuation process.
The president has stressed that the U.S. military is now in control at the airport and evacuating thousands with the goal of getting everyone who needs to be evacuated out, both American and Afghan, by August 31.
Concern is growing with reports that Afghans and American citizens are having trouble getting to the airport because of Taliban checkpoints. The U.S. is continuing to communicate with local Taliban commanders to move people through the checkpoints.
VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara and Steve Herman contributed to this report.