Biden vague on Afghanistan endgame after pledging to 'hunt down' Kabul terrorists, stick to withdrawal

Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal strategy after terror attacks

President responds to Fox News’ Peter Doocy over America’s responsibility in Kabul

President Biden’s remarks following deadly terror attacks at Kabul’s airport suggested that U.S. activities in Afghanistan could continue beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for a permanent withdrawal of U.S. troops, raising further questions about the current parameters of the mission.

Biden vowed to retaliate against ISIS-K militants responsible for the suicide bombings that killed at least 13 U.S. military service members on Thursday, though he did not provide a timeline for when those strikes could occur. He also noted that there would be “numerous opportunities” to evacuate at-risk individuals after Aug. 31, even as he pledged to maintain his current timeline for the withdrawal.

“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans there. We will get our Afghan allies out and our mission will go on,” Biden said during his speech. “America will not be intimidated. And I have the utmost confidence in our brave service members who continue to execute this mission with courage and honor to save lives and get Americans, our partners, our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.”

Biden has faced immense pressure from lawmakers to complete evacuation operations regardless of his deadline. The president pledged to move forward with evacuation flights despite the bombing, asserting that U.S. officials have sufficient time and resources to evacuate all Americans who wish to leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

He added that the military would retaliate against ISIS-K “with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, in the moment of our choosing.” It was unclear if those strikes could occur after the withdrawal of a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Further evacuations after the Aug. 31 deadline could be achieved through various means, including coordination with the Taliban, according to Biden. He did not elaborate on other potential methods.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Biden’s remarks.

When asked to define the end of the mission during a press briefing shortly after Biden’s speech, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration’s stance was that the Aug. 31 deadline functioned as the formal endpoint. At the same time, she pledged an ongoing U.S. commitment to those who remained in the country.

“The end of this mission, yes, the 31st. But our commitment to getting American citizens out who may not be ready to depart continues,” Psaki said. “There is no end to that timeline, to getting our Afghan partners out.”

U.S. officials have evacuated more than 100,100 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, according to the White House. The State Department said it has evacuated about 500 of the 1,500 U.S. citizens believed to still be in Afghanistan since Wednesday.

In a statement earlier this week, Psaki said the U.S. “mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives.” At the time, she indicated that Biden had requested contingency plans should an extension become necessary.

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