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Afghanistan turmoil

US 'unwavering' in Afghanistan evacuations, Biden says

Thousands still outside Kabul airport hoping to be evacuated

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the Afghanistan evacuations at the White House on Aug. 22.   © AP

KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States has an "unwavering commitment" to get U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans to safety out of Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said, as Taliban fighters beat back thousands desperate to flee outside Kabul airport on Sunday.

Biden said the security situation in Afghanistan was changing rapidly and his administration was under no illusions about the threat from Islamic State militants in Afghanistan known as ISIS-K (for Khorasan).

The Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan last week as the U.S. and allies withdrew troops after a 20-year war, fired in the air and used batons to force people to form queues outside the airport, witnesses said. On Saturday, seven people were killed in a crush at the gates.

"Let me be clear, the evacuation of thousands from Kabul is going to be hard and painful" and would have been "no matter when it began," Biden said in a briefing at the White House.

On Sunday, there were no major injuries as gunmen beat back the crowds, according to witnesses, and Washington said it was now able to get large numbers of Americans into the airport.

The Taliban had been "cooperative" about extending the airport perimeter, Biden said.

Britain's defence ministry said seven Afghans were killed in the crush around the airport on Saturday as thousands tried to get a flight out.

Sky News showed soldiers on a wall on Saturday attempting to pull the injured from the crush and spraying people with a hose to prevent them from getting dehydrated.

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