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Biden steadfast on US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by 31 August

Washington still intends to withdraw all its military troops from Afghanistan by the end of August but is crafting a contingency plan to extend that date into September, US President Joe Biden announced on 24 August. His decision comes despite pleas from foreign partners and allies to push the date so that they can continue to use Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to evacuate their citizens and Afghans from the country.

Biden's announcement came after the Group of Seven – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) – and other world leaders held a virtual meeting earlier in the day on the deteriorating situation inside the Central Asian country.

“On evacuation, we agreed that we will continue our close co-operation to get people out as efficiently and safely as possible. We're currently on pace to finish by 31 August. The sooner we can finish the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops,” he said from the White House, citing the risk that the terrorist group ISIS-K poses to the airport and the surrounding area.

“But the completion of 31 August depends upon the Taliban continuing co-operation to allow access [to] the airport to those who are in transport now with no disruption to our operations,” Biden added. While the end of August date is set for now, he noted that the Pentagon and the US State Department officials are crafting “contingency plans to adjust the timetable”.

Biden's comments come after international partners, including those from the UK and Germany, have criticised the quick pace of Washington's evacuation plan, and just four days earlier NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during an emergency virtual NATO meeting that it was a prime topic of concern.

A US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globelaster III transports 823 Afghan citizens from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on 15 August. US Air Mobility Command said that this is a record for the C-17. (US Air Force )

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