President Biden is standing firm on the pledge to “limit” the duration of the evacuation mission in Kabul, but says it will be completed.
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President Joe Biden issued this warning to ISIS militants blamed for today’s bombings and gunfire that killed at least 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghan civilians.
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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this – we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.
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The president also stood firm on his pledge to complete the evacuation mission out of Afghanistan. He also said that mission will be limited in its timeline. NPR’s Michele Kelemen joins us now from the State Department to talk about where the mission goes from here.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So what is the impact of today’s attack on this enormous effort that’s been underway to get people processed and on planes out of Afghanistan?
KELEMEN: Well, incredibly, flights continued today, even as these attacks were taking place at the gate just outside. Biden says that 7,000 people managed to get out. He said the U.S. won’t be deterred and will complete this mission as planned by August 31, even at the risk of more attacks. In all, the U.S. and its allies and partners have evacuated 104,000 people. We’re talking about Americans, foreign nationals, Afghans who worked with the U.S. and for other NATO forces, journalists, activists, many others. But of course, there are many, many others who are still there and scared.
KELLY: Yeah. And just – do we know anything more about that number for Americans specifically? Because I know yesterday, when Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, was briefing, he said there were as many as 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan.
KELEMEN: Right. And he also said that the State Department was guiding 500 of them to the airport. They managed to get out. The State Department says it’s doing everything it can to reach out to that other thousand Americans who had registered early on. Though many of them have left, some plan to stay. The State Department put that figure in the dozens. And there are also hundreds of more calls coming in, but it’s not clear how many of them are American. So I’d say, you know, it’s really not clear how many are going to be left by the time this operation comes to an end next week.
KELLY: You know, Michele, the warning from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul about a possible attack, that went out right before 7:30 last night, Washington time. I know because you were forwarding it within NPR. The U.S. was aware of this threat. What does it say that they weren’t able to stop it?
KELEMEN: Well, I think part of the problem is just the massive crowds out there at the gates. I mean, the U.S. had been trying – warning Americans to avoid these gates to go – they said they had other alternate routes that they were working on, encouraging Americans to go that way. The other problem is that, you know, it’s the Taliban that controls the outer perimeter. So the U.S. has to rely on them to stop any bad actors from coming into this crowd. Now, Biden said he saw no evidence of collusion between the Taliban and ISIS-K, which carried out the attack. But it is a very dangerous mix.
KELLY: And just quick update, Michele, on where the evacuation efforts of other countries that are trying to get out of Afghanistan stand.
KELEMEN: Well, the Canadians have wrapped up theirs. The Germans have wrapped up theirs. And it’s a problem because they also have people that they want out that haven’t made it out yet.
KELLY: NPR’s Michele Kelemen at the State Department tonight.
Thank you, Michele.
KELEMEN: Thank you.
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