Aug. 23 White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
7:38PM Aug 23, 2021
Thanks Jen. Good afternoon everyone. I'll make some comments and then as Jen said I'm happy to take your questions. I want to start once again by saluting our troops and civilians at the Kabul airport. Cabo fell just over a week ago, within 48 hours they had secured the airfield, they had safely and effectively drawn down our embassy compound and retro graded our embassy personnel. They have now facilitated the evacuation of more than 37,000 people out of the country since August 14 American citizens, third country nationals are Afghan allies and Afghans at risk of persecution or worse. In the last 24 hours alone 28 US military flights have evacuated approximately 10,400 People from Kabul. In addition, 61 coalition aircraft have evacuated approximately 5900, additional people. That is more than 16,000 people in 24 hours, and the flights are continuing, hour by hour, as we speak, we have established a network of transit centers in multiple countries in the Gulf in Europe, where we are getting US citizens on flights home, and we are running biometric and biographic background checks on Afghan evacuees before bringing them to the United States, or having them relocated to a third country. While told 26 countries on four continents are contributing to this effort, one of the largest airlifts in history, a massive military Diplomatic Security humanitarian undertaking a testament to the power and purpose of the United States and our allies. I want to provide an update on American citizens. We've helped 1000s of Americans leave cabelo ready. We've contacted Americans still in Afghanistan by email, by phone, by text to give them specific instructions. We have developed a method to safely and efficiently transfer groups of American citizens on to the airfield for operational reasons, I'm not going to go into further detail on this. Many people have asked reasonably why we cannot provide a precise number of American citizens still in country. Let me explain. When Americans have come to Afghanistan over the years, we asked them to register with the embassy. Many have left without D registering, others never register at all. That is their right. Of course, and it's our responsibility to find them, which we are now doing hour by hour. In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul.
This operation is complex. It is dangerous, it is fraught with challenges, operational logistical human. And it's produced searing images of pain and desperation, but no operation like this, no evacuation from a capital that has fallen in a civil war could unfold without those images. The question is, are we on track to fulfill our objectives of this operation to bring out our people, so many of those Afghans who helped us. And so many of those Afghans who CRISC, and we believe we are, as we conduct these operations we are sustaining the highest level of vigilance for an attack against the airport by ISIS K or another terrorist group. Our commanders on the ground have taken every step they can to prepare for such an attack or President has authorized every capability that those commanders have asked for, to protect the airfield against such an attack. We remain in close touch with allies and partners to coordinate the evacuation of their own citizens and their priority personnel as well as to respond to the ongoing political and security situation in Afghanistan. The President has spoken twice now with the British prime minister. He has spoken with the German chancellor, the French president Spanish president, the Italian Prime Minister, the Emir of Qatar, and the Crown Prince of the UAE. Tomorrow he will participate in the g7 leaders meeting on Afghanistan, to ensure the world's leading democracies are aligned and united on the way forward. We are working with partners to address the acute humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. And we will remain persistently vigilant against the terrorism threat in Afghanistan and in multiple other theaters, we have proven in other places that we can suppress terrorism without a permanent military presence on the ground, and we will do the same in Afghanistan. Finally, we are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from so many Americans, so many of them veterans to help of Afghan evacuees those Afghans at risk our Afghan allies settle here in the United States. This is the best of the American spirit and we look forward to working with them in the days, weeks and months ahead. And with that I would be happy to take your questions. Yes.
Tell them spokesman has said that it would be a red line for US troops in Afghanistan. On August 31st deadline. Are you engaged in talks with the Taliban, over extending that deadline and how are those talks go.
We are in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis through both political and security channels. I'm not going to get into the details of those discussions here to protect those discussions, which are covering a wide range of issues. We are also consulting closely with our allies and partners on the issue of the evacuation and its progress in fact the President just got off the phone with the British Prime Minister A short time ago, we are taking this day by day, we believe we are making enormous progress and taking a step back. A week ago, I don't think almost anyone in this briefing room would have thought we'd be standing here today with 37,000 people already evacuated from the country we believe we're making progress. We're going to keep making progress. And the President will ultimately make his decision about the precise shape and scope of the operation,
the President decided whether he is going to need more time beyond August 31 to get both US personnel and Afghan people out of the country,
as I said, the President believes we are making substantial progress, dozens of flights 1000s Now, 10s of 1000s of people evacuated from the country we believe today will be an efficient and effective day and tomorrow and the next day as well. And as I said he is taking this day by day, and will make his determinations as we go. Yes, the administration thinks that they need to Taliban agreement to extend beyond August 31. As I said, we are engaging with the Taliban and consulting with the Taliban on every aspect of what's happening in Kabul right now on what's happening at the airport on how we need to ensure that there is facilitated passage to the airport for American citizens, si V's third country nationals and so forth, we'll continue those conversations with them, ultimately, it will be the president's decision how this proceeds, no one else's. Yes. You said you, we have the wherewithal to get Americans out but he didn't forgive me if I think that quote right. So your statement, didn't say, we have the ability to get them out into the timeframe, by August 31 So is that, as I've said before, as the President has said before, we believe that we have time between now and the 31st to get out any American who wants to get out. Yes.
Want to ask, you said that you have said multiple times and the President has said that you could not leave Afghanistan without these chaotic scenes, no matter when you let that happen. I guess my question is Why can the administration prepare the American public and say to the American public. There are going to be very chaotic scenes, you are going to see, it's going to be rough, there's gonna be a rough couple of weeks before this happened instead you'd have the President saying, don't worry, we're not going to be you know evacuating ambassadors or diplomats from the roof of the embassy. Don't worry about that. Why, if you knew that there will be chaos, did the administration that prepare the American public for the chaos.
So first I'm glad you asked this question and I wanted to take a step back and address the nature of an evacuation and circumstance like this and then I'll come to your specific point on messaging, whether Kapil fell in August or September or December, or next August. The fact is, whenever it fell there were going to be American citizens in Kabul, who needed to be evacuated, there were going to be third country nationals in Kabul who were going to be evacuated, have to be evacuated, there were going to be Afghans, still in the fight, who had supported the US war effort over the last 20 years, who are going to have to be evacuated so an evacuation operation in a dangerous situation was going to have to happen at some point and when you run an operation like that, when you are trying to position assets to go in and secure an airfield in a city that has been taken by opposing forces with a government that's collapsed, your contingency plan is going to hit head on with reality. And there are going to be complexities and challenges and difficulties, and you work through them you make adjustments and you ultimately get an operation going. That is moving out 1000s If not 10s of 1000s of people daily, that is what we have accomplished over the course of the week, it has not been without its immense difficulties and we are very mindful of those difficulties we are clear eyed about those difficulties, but that is how we have watched the last week unfold, why the President didn't walk out and say, let me explain to you exactly what is going to unfold in Afghanistan, all along the President has been clear that the United States was not going to enter a third decade of American military deployment in the middle of another country's civil war, and in his speech in April, and in his speech in July, and in comments he has made since then he has been clear that that could mean difficult times in Afghanistan. We have been clear eyed about this from the start. But what we were not prepared to do what the President was not prepared to do was to say that for that reason, we need to keep American men and women fighting and dying in the Civil War, yes, yes,
whether it's August 31 or shortly thereafter, it's clear that all of the eligible Afghans who work for US forces and the US government are not going to be able to get out.
For those watching.
What do you say to them, what
advice do you give should they try to get to a third country on their own or should they wait for some diplomatic solution.