In an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, President Joe Biden said the U.S. is committed to getting every American out of Afghanistan -- even if it means potentially extending the mission beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for a total withdrawal.
"We've got like 10 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now. Right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?" Stephanopoulos asked Biden.
"Yes," Biden replied.
The president cautioned that his focus is on completing the mission by Aug. 31, but when pressed by Stephanopoulos, conceded the mission could take longer.
"So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond Aug. 31st?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"No," Biden replied. "Americans should understand that we're gonna try to get it done before Aug. 31st."
"But if we don't," Stephanopoulos said, "the troops will stay --"
"If -- if we don't," Biden interrupted, "We'll determine at the time who's left."
"And?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"And if you're American force -- if there's American citizens left, we're gonna stay to get them all out," Biden said.
Biden told ABC News that in addition to the 10,000 to 15,000 Americans who need to be evacuated, there are between 50,000 and 65,000 Afghans and their families the U.S. also wants to get out.
But to do that before the end of the month, Biden said it will require that the ongoing evacuation mission go faster.
"It depends on where we are and whether we can get -- ramp these numbers up to five to five - 7,000 a day coming out. If that's the case, they'll all be out," the president said.
"The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out. And that's the objective. That's what we're doing now. That's the path we're on. And I think we'll get there," Biden said.
The administration has come under fire for the chaos unfolding on the ground in Afghanistan as control of the country quickly fell to the Taliban while the deadline for the final U.S. withdrawal approached.
The Taliban's rapid recapture of the country, the administration acknowledged, happened more quickly than they had expected, and led to chaos at the Kabul airport. As the Taliban continues to block access for desperate Afghan allies who aided the United States during the 20 years war, they now fear retribution for their efforts.
This report was featured in the Thursday, Aug.19, 2021, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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