Tensions rise in Afghanistan as U.S. races to evacuate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – While President Biden is signaling that he may push back his August 31st deadline to get all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, the Taliban is calling that date a red line.

Allied forces are scrambling to get evacuees into the Kabul airport as flights to safety continue around the clock with that deadline ticking down.

Evacuations are rapidly increasing out of Afghanistan’s capital with the U.S. military acknowledging it has gone beyond the airport in a couple instances to safely bring Americans in.

But the Taliban’s patience for U.S. operations may be running out.

A deadly firefight at Kabul airport Monday highlighted the intense danger U.S. forces face as they work to evacuate as many Americans and allies as possible.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “We are trying to get Americans out, wherever they may be in Afghanistan.”

Despite an elevated terror threat targeting the evacuation efforts, President Biden said, U.S. troops may need to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of the month to keep getting people out.

Biden said, “Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there is going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process.”

But the Taliban is warning the U.S. would be crossing a “red line” if it kept troops in the country beyond the self-imposed deadline of August 31st.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, “That is the mission that has been assigned by the commander in chief, and that’s what we’re trying to execute.”

The U.S. has helped evacuate roughly 37,000 people since the Taliban takeover began, more than 10,000 over the past 24 hours alone.

They’re being flown to two dozen countries including Germany, where U.S. airmen helped an Afghan woman give birth in the cargo hold of a C-17 aircraft after she went into labor mid-flight.

Some refugees have already made it to this processing center near Virginia’s Dulles Airport from there they’re being moved to army bases across the country.

But many, many more remain in Afghanistan waiting for their turn, guarded under perilous conditions for U.S. troops waiting for their own tickets home.

With President Biden’s approval ratings slipping below 50 percent for the first time, the administration is hoping a successful evacuation in the end could help redeem the chaotic withdrawal. But there are dangerous hurdles ahead.

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