Joe Biden says ‘contingencies’ in place to extend August 31 deadline if Taliban obstruct airport

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Joe Biden says ‘contingencies’ in place to extend August 31 deadline if Taliban obstruct airport
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Joe Biden has reiterated his commitment to US forces leaving Afghanistan by August 31 despite pleas to extend the deadline.

However, the US President said contingency plans were in place for troops to stay if the Taliban stopped allowing access to Kabul airport.

Speaking at a news conference following an emergency meeting of the G7 on Tuesday, the US President said evacuations were on schedule.

The US has evacuated 70,700 people from the country since August 14, he said.

He added: “There was strong agreement among the leaders both about the evacuation mission underway as well as the need to co-ordinate our approach to Afghanistan as we move forward.

“First, on evacuation, we agreed we will continue our close co-operation to get people out as safely as possible.

“We are currently on a pace to finish by August 31, the sooner we can finish the better.

“In addition, I have asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary.”

Fellow G7 leaders, including Boris Johnson, asked the President to extend the deadline at the crisis talks to allow more people to flee Afghanistan.

Republican rivals accused the Mr Biden of caving in to the Taliban’s demands by sticking to the August 31 date for Kabul evacuations.

The President, who refused to take questions from reporters after the news conference, said his discussion with G7 leaders had been “productive”.

He added that US troops were in danger in the country and they should leave as soon as possible.

“Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops,” Mr Biden said.

“They’re real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration. The longer we stay starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group.”

The Taliban has said there will be “consequences” if US troops remained after the deadline

“We are not in favour of allowing Afghans to leave,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters.

“They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline.”

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