Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

U.S. allies and NATO push Biden to extend Afghanistan airlift beyond August 31

President Biden is attempting to navigate between calls from allies to extend the Kabul airlift operation beyond Aug. 31 and warnings from the Taliban that doing so would cross a red line.

Driving the news: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push for an extension beyond the end of August at a virtual G7 meeting tomorrow, which he will chair.


  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said today that France was "concerned about the deadline set by the United States" as "additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations."
  • But National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden still believes all Americans can be evacuated before Aug. 31. The goal remains to conclude the evacuations by then, though Biden will consult with allies, Sullivan added.
  • It will likely be impossible to evacuate all Afghans who worked with NATO troops by Aug. 31, and dozens of other countries are still working to track down and extricate their citizens.

The big picture: As they conduct those operations amid scenes of chaos that the Biden administration arguably precipitated, and failed to anticipate, NATO allies are grappling with their own reliance on American power.

What they’re saying: “You look at the scenes at the Kabul airport, and what I see is the United States securing an airfield at the risk of several thousand U.S. troops to facilitate not just the evacuation of Americans but…third-country nationals from friends and foes alike,” Sullivan said today from the White House podium.

  • Some critics of the chaotic withdrawal within NATO see instead a bungled retreat by a humbled superpower. But they likely agree with Sullivan’s next point: “There is no other country in the world that could pull this off, bar none.”
  • One such critic, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, has acknowledged that hopes of keeping the evacuation window open for a few additional days rest on the participation of American troops.
  • “When they withdraw, that will take away the framework,” Wallace said, “and we will have to go as well.”
A British evacuation flight. Photo: Ben Shread/MoD Crown Copyright via Getty

Coordination with the Taliban is vital to the U.S. airlift operation. The militants have pledged to give Americans safe passage to the airport and to also let eligible Afghans through, though some are still reportedly being turned back.

  • Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said today that continuous efforts at “deconfliction” with the Taliban had helped the U.S. pick up the pace of its evacuations.
  • Kirby also acknowledged that it would take time to evacuate the 5,800 U.S. troops at the airport, meaning civilian evacuations could be suspended prior to a deadline that is already just a week away.

The other side: Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that it will “provoke reaction” and “consequences” if Biden reneges on his deadline.

  • The Taliban have not said what those consequences would be, but the militants control access to the airport perimeter.
  • It’s unclear whether they would risk conflict with the U.S. while on the precipice of total victory, or whether Biden would potentially jeopardize the security of the withdrawal operation by extending it beyond the deadline.

What to watch: The Taliban has said it intends to keep the airport open beyond Aug. 31 and allow Afghans who want to leave the country to do so.

  • But allies including Germany have expressed concerns about the feasibility of continuing evacuations after control of the airport passes from the U.S. to the Taliban.

State of the airlift

U.S. officials seemed to speak with newfound confidence about the evacuation efforts after announcing this morning that the U.S. had evacuated 10,400 people in the previous 24 hours, and 37,000 since the airlift began on Aug. 14.

Breaking it down: The vast majority of those are Afghan nationals. The White House and Pentagon both said "several thousand" Americans had been evacuated without offering more precise numbers.

The evacuees are being housed temporarily on U.S. bases in Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Italy, Germany and Spain — as well as New Jersey, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The evacuation operation has in some cases been extended beyond the airport, Sullivan said: “We have developed a method to safely and efficiently transfer groups of Americans onto the airfield.”

  • The Qatari ambassador has been transporting small groups of stranded Americans to the Kabul airport, per the Washington Post.
  • Kirby also said the military was "going out as needed" to pick up Americans, but provided no details beyond the fact that one operation involved a helicopter while others did not.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories