President Joe Biden has accepted a Pentagon recommendation to remove US troops from Afghanistan by August 31, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Biden also asked for contingency plans to stay longer if needed, the official said.
The Pentagon’s recommendation reflects growing security concerns at the Kabul airport, where US citizens and high-risk Afghans are being evacuated.
Washington tells the Taliban that the August 31 deadline is conditional on the group’s cooperation in facilitating evacuations, the official added.
Biden was due to speak later on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Pentagon said there had been no change so far in its plan to meet the August 31 deadline, and it planned to withdraw US troops by then.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Pentagon believes it is able to get all Americans willing to leave Afghanistan by August 31.
“We are definitely still aiming for the end of the month,” Kirby said, adding that the Pentagon may need additional bases to accommodate evacuees from Afghanistan.
Kirby said “several thousand” Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, but declined to provide a more specific figure. He also said he was unable to give the percentage of Americans in Afghanistan who have now been evacuated.
“The president’s direction was to complete this withdrawal, this evacuation and withdrawal, by August 31. That’s the direction we’re operating in and that’s why that’s the driving force behind many of our plans,” Kirby said.
The new Taliban rulers in Afghanistan said on Tuesday they wanted all foreign evacuations from the country to be completed by August 31 and would not agree to an extension as the leaders of the Group of Seven met to discuss the crisis.
Western forces have been working frantically to get foreigners and Afghans on planes and into the country, and Biden has faced increasing pressure from allies to negotiate more time for the airlift.
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