Biden's speech on Monday say him defend his decision to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan after 20 years, but in the days since public and political anger has mounted at the handling of the withdrawal.
Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport have been beamed around the world, embarrassing the Biden administration and leaving allies questioning the reliability of the United States.
Biden said on Wednesday that he believes 15,000 American citizens remain in Afghanistan, and that there are 50-65,000 Afghans the U.S. would like to help leave.
Joe Biden dismisses concerns over images and videos of Afghans falling thousands of feet to their deaths trying to escape Taliban rule in Afghanistan:— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) August 18, 2021
“That was four days ago, five days ago.” pic.twitter.com/AIDFvGZMb4
On Thursday Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said that they expect 6,000 people to be evacuated on U.S. flights overnight.
And he was forced to announce a reversal of plans to charge $2,000 per evacuee for the flight, after a social media outcry.
On Thursday morning, Politico reported on the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council, which stated in an August 14 advisory: 'U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.
'Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid.
'The cost may be $2,000 USD or more per person.'
An unnamed State Department spokesman initially stood by the charge, telling Politico that 'U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided 'on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.'
Price, however, backtracked by Thursday evening.
'In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,' he said, in a statement provided to The New York Post.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, on Thursday said the president believes U.S. forces will be able to get all Americans who want to leave Afghanistan out of the country by Biden's self-imposed deadline of August 31.
However, Sullivan said the U.S. does not know exactly how many Americans are in the country.
'The U.S. government doesn't actually know the precise answer to that question and that's because we ask every American who comes to Afghanistan to register with the U.S. Embassy,' he said.
'But when people leave, they often don't deregister, and even some who come never register in the first place.
'The president is committed to ensuring that every American who wants to leave Afghanistan gets out of Afghanistan,' he told CBS Evening News.
'He believes that we can accomplish that by August 31.'
Biden on Wednesday told ABC News that that was the aim, but he was prepared to be flexible if necessary.
British lawmakers vented their anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden over the collapse of Afghanistan into Taliban hands, calling it a failure of intelligence, leadership and moral duty https://t.co/mA40xtrVqW pic.twitter.com/ovsZPpb6EN— Reuters (@Reuters) August 18, 2021
'We have plenty more seats on flights than we believe that there are possibly Americans still in Afghanistan, and there is plenty of time to get to the airport,' Sullivan said.
He called it a 'dynamic and dangerous situation'.
Sullivan added that the U.S. has made clear to the Taliban that if they prevent Americans from leaving, 'they will be met with a swift and forceful response.'
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.