It’s Tuesday aka the last day of August.
For August 31st, 2021, President Biden has received his daily brief. He and Vice President Harris have also received a brief on the evolving situation in Afghanistan. This afternoon President Biden will offer remarks on ending the war in Afghanistan. Sometime today President Biden will receive an update on the impacts of Hurricane Ida.
Biden speech on Afghanistan moved to 2:45 pm.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 31, 2021
President Biden has not tweeted or retweeted so far for Tuesday.
When Biden Bits was published on Monday President Biden had 2 retweets. He add 2 tweets giving him a Monday Tweeting Total of 2 tweets and 2 retweets.
The YouTube video is 19 minutes and 54 seconds long. Full remarks can be found here.
The White House published the following readout of President Biden’s briefing with Gulf Coast Officials.
President Biden convened a virtual meeting today with the Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and mayors from cities and parishes most impacted by Hurricane Ida to receive an update on the storm’s impacts, and to discuss how the Federal Government can provide assistance. Joining the President at the meeting were Senior Advisor and Director of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
The President made clear State and local officials have the full support of the Federal Government, and named Richmond as his Administration’s direct line for Gulf Coast State and local officials throughout the recovery.
President Biden highlighted how this will be a whole-of-government and whole-of-community response and recovery effort, and we are closely coordinating with State and local officials every step of the way. He talked about how the Administration is supporting efforts to get electricity and transmission lines back up and running, and how there are more than 25,000 line and tree crews from at least 30 States en route to help local utilities begin restoration work. The President announced that he has asked the Department of Defense and the Department of
Homeland Security to immediately make available satellite imagery, and he asked the Federal Aviation Administration to work with Louisiana and Mississippi to authorize the use of surveillance drones to help State and local governments assess the damage from Hurricane Ida. He also spoke about Federal efforts to assist cellular customers as work continues to restore cellular service in impacted areas.
The Biden Administration is working with its Federal, State and local partners as well as non-governmental agencies to support the needs of areas affected by Ida. The President approved a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Louisiana and a pre-disaster Emergency Declaration for the State of Mississippi. More than 3,600 FEMA employees are deployed to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and FEMA staged more than 3.4 million meals, millions of liters of water, more than 35,700 tarps, and roughly 200 generators in the region in advance of the storm.
Hundreds of additional ambulances and air ambulances have been moved into the area. Seven FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams and 17 Urban Search and Rescue teams consisting of more than 950 personnel have been activated. Dozens of shelters remain open in affected areas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is deploying a 250-bed Federal medical shelter to Alexandria, Louisiana. The U.S. Coast Guard has 27 rotary or fixed wing aircraft, and the Department of Defense has 60 high water vehicles and 14 rotary wing aircraft prepositioned to assist with search and rescue. Governors have activated more than 5,200 National Guard personnel in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama to support response efforts.
The Army Corps of Engineers has activated planning and response teams for debris removal, temporary roofing, and temporary housing.
Joining the President and his team virtually at the meeting were:
Governor John Bel Edwards
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome
Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory
Mississippi Participants:White House.gov. 08/30/2021.
Governor Tate Reeves
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba
His full statement:
I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives. The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.
Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.
I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel. The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.
Finally, I want to end with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss.White House.gov. 08/30/2021.
The YouTube is long, but the actual remarks start at the 9 minute and 54 second mark (cued up) and conclude at the 36 minute and 26 minute mark.
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command remarks can be found here.
General McKenzie’s statement to the press:
I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan. We will soon release a photo of the last C-17 departing Afghanistan with Major General Chris Donahue and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, aboard.
While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues. And I know that you have heard — and I know that you’re going to hear more about that from the State Department shortly.
Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11th, 2001.
It’s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end along with many of his Al-Qaida co-conspirators, and it was not — it was a not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured. Sadly that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments.
No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment. But I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it.
Before I open it up for questions, I do want to provide some important context to the evacuation mission that we just completed in what was the largest noncombatant evacuation in the U.S. military’s history.
Since August the 14th, over an 18-day period, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport. That includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians. This last category includes special immigrant visas, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families.
In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combine to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield.
On average we have evacuated more than 7,500 civilians per day over the 18 days of the mission, which includes 16 full days of evacuations, and more than 19,000 on a single day. These numbers do not include the roughly 5,000 service members and their equipment that were sent to Afghanistan to secure the airfield and who will withdraw on the conclusion of our mission.
The numbers I provided represent a monumental accomplishment, but they do not do justice to the determination, the grit, the flexibility and the professionalism of the men and women of the U.S. military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions. As such, I think it’s important that I provide you with what I hope will be some valuable context.
When the president directed the complete withdraw of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in April, the team at U.S. Central Command began to update and refine our existing plan for a potential noncombatant evacuation operation, or a NEO, in Afghanistan.
We had a framework of plans that included numerous branches and sequels depending on the nature of the security environment. Over time we continued to refine our plans, which included the interagency, the international community and other combatant commands.
Plans such as this are built upon a number of facts and assumptions, and facts and assumptions change over time. While observing the security environment deteriorate, we continued to update our facts and assumptions.
As the security situation rapidly devolved in Afghanistan, we took a number of actions to position ourselves for a potential NEO based upon direction from the secretary of defense. We positioned forces in the region and put them on increased alert. We began to pre-position supplies, and we began some preparatory work on intermediate facilities in Qatar with the support of our gracious host nation.
When the evacuation was formerly directed on August the 14th, we began to carry out our plan, based upon the initial assumption that the Afghan security forces would be a willing and able security partner in Kabul, defending the capital or a matter of weeks, or at least for a few days. Within 24 hours, of course, the Afghan military collapsed completely, opening Kabul up to the Taliban’s advance.
On August the 15th, in a meeting with Taliban senior leadership in Doha, I delivered a message on behalf of the President that our mission in Kabul was now the evacuation of Americans and our partners, that we would not tolerate interference and that we would forcefully defend our forces and the evacuees if necessary. The Taliban’s response in that meeting was in line with what they’ve said publicly: While they stated their intent to enter and occupy Kabul, they also offered to work with us on a deconfliction mechanism to prevent miscalculation while our forces operated in close quarters. Finally, they promised not to interfere with our withdrawal.
It’s important to understand that within 48 hours of the NEO execution order, the facts on the ground had changed significantly. We had gone from cooperating on security with a longtime partner and ally to initiating a pragmatic relationship of necessity with a longtime enemy.
And to that environment, Rear Admiral Pete Vasely and Brigadier General Farrell Sullivan of the Marines, and subsequently Major General Chris Donahue of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, deployed and employed their forces and did extraordinary work with the leading elements or reinforcement package to safely close the embassy in one period of darkness or one — one evening, to establish a deconfliction mechanism with the Taliban, to establish security at the airport, and to bring in the rest of our reinforcements into the airport. They accomplished this difficult list of tasks within 48 hours of supporting the transfer of the embassy to the airport.
I visited Kabul on Tuesday, August the 17th, to see the work being done to establish security firsthand and to observe the transition to the evacuation. I left on a C-17 that brought more than 130 Afghans and American citizens out from Karzai International Airport to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Our men and women on the ground at the airport quickly embraced the dangerous and methodical work of defending the airport while conducting the hand — the hand screening of more than 120,000 evacuees from six different entry points under the airfield. We also conducted three separate helicopter extractions of three distinct groups of civilians, including at least 185 American citizens, and with our German partners, 21 German citizens.
Additionally, U.S. Special Operations Forces reached out to help break in — bring in more than 1,064 American citizens and 2017 SIVs, or Afghans at risk, and 127 third-country nationals, all via phone calls, vectors and escorting. We have evacuated more than 6,000 U.S. civilians, which we believe represents the vast majority of those who wanted to leave at this time.
It would be difficult to overestimate the number of unusual challenges and competing demands that our forces on the ground have successfully overcome. The threat to our forces, particularly from ISIS-K, was very real and tragically resulted in the loss of 13 service members and dozens of Afghan civilians.
I said this before, but I’d like to say it again, we greatly appreciate the contributions of the many coalition partners that stood with us on the ground at the Karzai International Airport. I’m just going to single out one nation as an example of the many, the Norwegians, who maintained their hospital at the airport. And they were absolutely critical for the immediate care of our wounded after the Abbey Gate attack. Even after the attack, they agreed to extend the presence of their hospital to provide more coverage for us.
Our diplomats have also been with us in Kabul from the beginning, and their work in processing over 120,000 people stands right beside that of their military partners. We were a team on the ground.
As I close my remarks, I would like to offer my personal appreciation to the more than 800,000 service members and 25,000 civilians who have served in Afghanistan, and particularly to the families of those whose loved ones have been lost or wounded. Your service, as well as that of your comrades and family members, will never be forgotten.
My heart is broken over the losses we sustained three days ago. As the poem by Laurence Binyon goes, we will remember them.
The last 18 days have been challenging. Americans can be proud of the men and women of the armed forces who met these challenges head-on.Defense.gov. 08/30/2021.
I realize his statement is long, and originally I planned to only post his opening paragraph, but that didn’t feel right, so, I posted his opening remarks before he took questions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also offered remarks on Monday.
The YouTube video is 17 minutes and 22 seconds long. His full remarks can be found here.
I can’t post them all, as that would take up, a lot of article space, here are some highlights:
Eighteen days ago, the United States and our allies began our evacuation and relocation operation in Kabul. As you just heard from the Pentagon, a few hours ago, that operation was completed.
More than 123,000 people have been safely flown out of Afghanistan. That includes about 6,000 American citizens. This has been a massive military, diplomatic, and humanitarian undertaking – one of the most difficult in our nation’s history – and an extraordinary feat of logistics and coordination under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable.
We’ve seen pictures of U.S. service members at the Kabul airport cradling babies, comforting families. That’s the kind of compassionate courage our men and women in uniform exemplify. They carried out this mission under the constant threat of terrorist violence – and four days ago, 11 Marines, one Navy medic, and one soldier were killed by a suicide bomber at the airport gate, as well as scores of Afghans.
Nearly all of them were in their early 20s – just babies or toddlers on September 11th, 2001.
These deaths are a devastating loss for our country. We at the State Department feel them deeply. We have a special bond with the Marines. The first person that you see when you visit an American embassy is a Marine. They guard our diplomatic missions; they keep us safe around the world. We couldn’t do our jobs without them. And we will never forget their sacrifice – nor will we forget what they achieved. The most exceptional among us perform a lifetime’s work of service in a short time here on Earth. So. it was for our exceptional brothers and sisters who died last week.
Finally, I want to thank our allies and partners. This operation was a global endeavor in every way. Many countries stepped up with robust contributions to the airlift, including working by our side at the airport. Some are now serving as transit countries, allowing evacuees to be registered and processed on the way to their final destinations. Others have agreed to resettle Afghan refugees permanently, and we hope more will do so in the days and weeks ahead. We are truly grateful for their support.
Now, U.S. military flights have ended, and our troops have departed Afghanistan. A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.
First, we’ve built a new team to help lead this new mission.
As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul, and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress. Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take. And let me take this opportunity to thank our outstanding charge d’affaires in Kabul, Ambassador Ross Wilson, who came out of retirement in January 2020 to lead our embassy in Afghanistan, and has done exceptional, courageous work during a highly challenging time.
For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban. Our team there will be led by Ian McCary, who has served as our deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan for this past year. No one’s better prepared to do the job.
Second, we will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals, and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they choose.
Let me talk briefly about the Americans who remain in Afghanistan.
We made extraordinary efforts to give Americans every opportunity to depart the country – in many cases talking, and sometimes walking them into the airport.
Of those who self-identified as Americans in Afghanistan, who were considering leaving the country, we’ve thus far received confirmation that about 6,000 have been evacuated or otherwise departed. This number will likely continue to grow as our outreach and arrivals continue.
We believe there are still a small number of Americans – under 200 and likely closer to 100 – who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.
We’re trying to determine exactly how many. We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and we’ll have more details to share, as soon as possible. Part of the challenge with fixing a precise number is that there are long-time residents of Afghanistan who have American passports, and who were trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave. Many are dual-citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan, who have resided there for many years. For many, it’s a painful choice.
Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan – and everywhere in the world – continues. The protection and welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department’s most vital and enduring mission. If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year they reach out and say, “I’ve changed my mind,” we will help them leave.
Additionally, we’ve worked intensely to evacuate and relocate Afghans who worked alongside us, and are at particular risk of reprisal. We’ve gotten many out, but many are still there. We will keep working to help them. Our commitment to them has no deadline.
Third, we will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan.
The Taliban has committed to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner. They’ve said this privately and publicly many times. On Friday, a senior Taliban official said it again on television and radio, and I quote: “Any Afghans may leave the country, including those who work for Americans, if they want and for whatever reason there may be,” end quote.
Fourth, we will work to secure their safe passage.
This morning, I met with the foreign ministers of all the G7 countries – United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan – as well as Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, and the secretary general of NATO. We discussed how we will work together to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, including by reopening Kabul’s civilian airport as soon as possible – and we very much appreciate the efforts of Qatar and Turkey, in particular, to make this happen.
This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward.
This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward.
We are also working to identify ways to support Americans, legal permanent residents, and Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart via overland routes.
Fifth, we will stay focused on counterterrorism.
The Taliban has made a commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that could threaten the United States or our allies, including al-Qaida and the Taliban’s sworn enemy, ISIS-K. Here too, we will hold them accountable to that commitment. But while we have expectations of the Taliban, that doesn’t mean we will rely on the Taliban. We’ll remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves. And we’ll maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats, if necessary, as we demonstrated in the past few days by striking ISIS facilitators and imminent threats in Afghanistan – and as we do in places around the world where we do not have military forces on the ground.
Let me speak directly to our engagement with the Taliban across these and other issues. We engaged with the Taliban during the past few weeks to enable our evacuation operations. Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests.
If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests – including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year – and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it. But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith. Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.
Sixth, we will continue our humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
The conflict has taken a terrible toll on the Afghan people. Millions are internally displaced. Millions are facing hunger, even starvation. The COVID-19 pandemic has also hit Afghanistan hard. The United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Consistent with our sanctions on the Taliban, the aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs. And we expect that those efforts will not be impeded by the Taliban or anyone else.
And seventh, we will continue our broad international diplomacy across all these issues and many others.
I’ll have more to say on these matters in the coming days. The main point I want to drive home here today is that America’s work in Afghanistan continues. We have a plan for what’s next. We’re putting it into action.
This moment also demands reflection. The war in Afghanistan was a 20-year endeavor. We must learn its lessons, and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy. We owe that to future diplomats, policymakers, military leaders, service members. We owe that to the American people.
But as we do, we will remain relentlessly focused on today and on the future. We’ll make sure we’re finding every opportunity to make good on our commitment to the Afghan people, including by welcoming thousands of them into our communities, as the American people have done many times before with generosity and grace throughout our history.
In this way, we’ll honor all those brave men and women, from the United States and many other countries, who risked or sacrificed their lives as part of this long mission, right up to today.State.gov. 08/30/2021.
The White House press briefing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. D.C., time, but likely to change as the President’s remarks start time has changed.
President Biden’s remarks are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. D.C., time.