President Joe Biden Says U.S. Is 'Gonna Stay' in Afghanistan 'If There's American Citizens Left'

President Joe Biden confirmed that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan to ensure the safe exit of Americans from the country, even if it means extending the original Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline

President Biden on Afghanistan withdrawal, Taliban takeover intelligence decisions
Photo: ABC News

President Joe Biden has committed to keeping the U.S. military in Afghanistan to ensure all Americans can safely leave the country amid the turmoil caused by the Taliban takeover.

The U.S. previously set an Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all troops from the Middle Eastern country, but after Afghanistan rapidly fell to the Taliban last week, the president said he's planning to maintain a military presence there as long as American citizens remain.

In a Wednesday interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Biden, 78, said the U.S. will "do everything in our power to get all Americans out and our allies out," but confirmed that U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary.

When Stephanopoulos, 60, asked if troops will stay beyond Aug. 31, Biden replied, "It depends on where we are." If the U.S. can increase the number of Americans and allies leaving the country to between 5,000 and 7,000, the president said "they'll all be out."

"Americans should understand that we're gonna try to get it done before August 31st," he added. "If we don't, we'll determine at the time who's left."

According to The Associated Press, about 15,000 Americans remained in Afghanistan last weekend, though it's unclear who in that group is a dual citizen, an aid worker or U.S. government personnel. Americans stuck there have been left without safe transport to the airport, and Taliban checkpoints throughout the country are becoming more difficult to pass through.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. said it had evacuated 3,200 people from Afghanistan, a group that included all U.S. Embassy personnel, with the exception of some diplomats, per GMA.

Biden told Stephanopoulos that despite the criticism he's faced at home from his exit strategy, he stands by his decision.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty

"There is no good time to leave Afghanistan. Fifteen years ago would've been a problem, 15 years from now," the president said. "The basic choice is am I gonna send your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan in perpetuity?"

He added, "The idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens. I don't know how that happened."

Biden previously defended the U.S. exit from Afghanistan during a speech from the White House Monday, during which he acknowledged the "gut-wrenching" scenes of civilians desperately attempting to flee the country, even by holding onto taking off aircraft, as the Taliban took hold.

"I'm clear on my answer," Biden said. "I will not repeat the mistakes that we've made in the past."

"The scenes we're seeing in Afghanistan, they're gut-wrenching," he continued.

Still, he said, "there was only the cold reality," for the U.S." the country could withdraw from Afghanistan through a deal with the Taliban previously negotiated under the Trump administration, or continue fighting, "lurching into the third decade of conflict."

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