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Biden: Evacuations in Afghanistan accelerating, but 'we have a long way to go'

President Joe Biden
Posted at 2:57 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 18:05:45-04

President Joe Biden on Sunday provided another update on evacuation efforts in Afghanistan as the military races to evacuate all Americans ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline.

"We have a long way to go [in Afghanistan], and a lot could still go wrong," Biden said during his address.

Biden noted that evacuations have picked up, saying that the military during one 30-hour span over the weekend had flown 11,000 people out of the airport in Kabul.

He also confirmed the use of civil reserve flights — commercial aircraft recruited to assist in military missions. Biden said that such flights would not impact commercial flight schedules in the U.S., and that those planes would only be used to fly evacuees after they had arrived in third-party countries.

Biden was also asked about potentially extending the Aug. 31 deadline for evacuations. In response, the president said the option was still on the table.

"There are discussions going on," Biden said. "The hope is that we will not have to extend."

Biden's comments came hours after his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN that 3,900 people had been airlifted out of Kabul on U.S. military flights over the past 24 hours. That represents an increase from 1,600 flown out aboard U.S. military planes in the previous 24 hours, but remains far below the 5,000 to 9,000 that the military says it has the capacity to airlift daily.

Sullivan also said about 3,900 people were airlifted on non-U.S. military flights over the past 24 hours.

The Biden administration has given no firm estimate of the number of Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan. Some have put the total between 10,000 and 15.000. Sullivan on Sunday put it at “several thousand.”