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Biden says evacuation efforts could extend beyond Aug. 31

As part of wide-ranging marks intended to explain and defend his administration's handling of the crisis that has unfolded in Kabul, President Biden said on Sunday that U.S. evacuation efforts could be extended past Aug. 31.

Why it matters: Biden sought to address criticisms of nearly every aspect of the White House response to the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan's capital on Aug. 14, touching on why the administration will use commercial airlines to help relocate evacuees and the protocols in place to ensure that Afghans arriving to the U.S. have been thoroughly vetted.

  • "The security environment is changing rapidly," Biden said, adding that the U.S. is carefully monitoring any terrorist threats, including from ISIS-K, which may endanger U.S. troops, Americans or Afghan civilians near the airport.
  • Over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans not to venture to the airport "because of potential security threats."
  • When asked earlier in the day whether he would advise the president to extend the Aug. 31 deadline if American and Afghan allies aren't safely out of the country in time, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on ABC's "This Week" that "as we approach that deadline, we'll make a recommendation to the president."
  • Biden isn't inclined to fire any senior national security officials over the chaos in Kabul unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there's significant loss of American life, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: Biden focused on the number of Americans, allied and Afghan civilians evacuated so far. He also emphasized the Americans at home who have risen to the occasion to welcome and support Afghan refugees, saying: "that's who we are. That's what America is."

  • Nearly 28,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, including approximately 11,000 over less than 36 hours this weekend, Biden said.
  • In one 24 hour period this weekend 23 U.S. military flights evacuated 3,900 passengers and facilitated 35 charter flights carrying 4,000 people to other countries accepting refugees, he added.
  • "We see no reason by this tempo will not be kept up," Biden said.

Seeking to address safety concerns about the Afghans coming to the United States, Biden emphasized that planes would not fly directly from Kabul to U.S. airports.

  • “Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check,” Biden added.

Of note: Biden will attend a G7 leaders’ meeting virtually on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who added that "the leaders will discuss continuing our close coordination on Afghanistan policy and evacuating our citizens, the brave Afghans who stood with us over the last two decades, and other vulnerable Afghans."

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