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Biden pledges to evacuate all Americans, local aides from Afghanistan

Meanwhile, the US military in Afghanistan has deployed three helicopters to rescue 169 Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport gates to leave the country, an official said.

US Marines provide assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 20, 2021. (Reuters)

President Joe Biden has firmly pledged to bring all Americans home from Afghanistan as well as all Afghans who aided the war effort, as officials confirmed that US military helicopters flew beyond the Kabul airport to scoop up 169 Americans seeking to evacuate.

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Biden’s promises came as thousands more Americans and others seeking to escape the Taliban struggled to get past crushing crowds, Taliban airport checkpoints, and sometimes insurmountable US bureaucracy.

“We will get you home,” Biden promised Americans who were still in Afghanistan days after the Taliban retook control of Kabul, ending a two-decade war.

His commitment to finding a way out for Afghan allies vulnerable to Taliban attacks amounted to a potentially vast expansion of Washington’s promises, given the tens of thousands of translators and other helpers, and their close family members, seeking evacuation.

“We’re making the same commitment” to Afghan wartime helpers as to US citizens, Biden said, offering the prospect of assistance to Afghans who largely have been fighting individual battles to get the documents and passage into the airport that they need to leave. He called the Afghan allies “equally important” in the evacuations.

Helicopters to rescue 169 Americans

The US military in Afghanistan deployed three helicopters to rescue 169 Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport gates to leave the country, an official said.

In the first evidence that US forces are willing and able to go beyond the US-secured airport to help people seeking evacuation, three Chinook helicopters flew to pick up the group of US citizens at the Baron hotel, not far from the airport, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The group had planned to walk to the Abbey Gate of the airport, but a crowd was gathered there and US officials were concerned for the Americans’ safety.

“There was a large crowd established outside the Abbey Gate, a crowd, that, not everybody had confidence in, in terms of their ability to walk through it, and so local commanders on the scene took the initiative and flew these helicopters out there to pick them up,” Kirby said.

Earlier, President Biden mentioned the rescue in a speech, but gave few details.

Twelve nations to host Afghan evacuees

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said 13 countries have thus far agreed to at least temporarily host at-risk Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan and a dozen more have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees, including Americans and others.

Blinken said that potential Afghan refugees not already cleared for resettlement in the United States will be housed at facilities in Albania, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Uganda.

Transit countries include Bahrain, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

“We are encouraged by other countries that are also considering providing support. We have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas and to fulfill our commitments to citizens of partner nations and at-risk Afghans,” said Blinken.

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