US President Joe Biden said Sunday he still hopes to finalize the dramatic evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by August 31, as the Islamists blamed Washington for harrowing scenes of chaos and despair at the airport in Kabul.
One week after the hardline militant group made a stunning return to power, terrified Afghans kept trying to flee, skeptical of Taliban promises of a softer version of their brutal 1996-2001 rule.
Biden had previously set August 31 as the date to complete the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But the United States and its allies have been unable to cope with huge numbers of people trying to get on evacuation flights, leaving Kabul airport in disarray and the European Union warning it may be “impossible” to get everyone out before the deadline.
Speaking in the White House, Biden said his “hope is we will not have to extend”. “We’ll see what we can do,” he added when asked by reporters what his reply was to foreign leaders asking for more time.
“We have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong,” Biden said, citing the threat of attacks by the Islamic State group in particular.
He acknowledged the searing scenes at the US-controlled Hamid Karzai International airport, which have included babies and children being passed to soldiers over razor-wire fences and men clinging to the outside of departing planes.