The U.S. has begun pulling troops out of Afghanistan in preparation for all forces to exit the country by August 31, President Joe Biden’s self-imposed deadline for departure.
Biden decided on Tuesday against extending the deadline to make room for further evacuations as necessary, rebuffing calls from U.S. lawmakers as well as international leaders. Defense officials told CNN that the decrease in troop presence will not have an impact on the ongoing evacuation operation.
“So far, the reduction does not affect the mission,” an official said. “If you can have a smaller mission set and still conduct the mission, then you can reduce your footprint and reduce your risk.”
Biden decided to keep to his August 31 deadline after the Taliban threatened against pushing back the evacuation timeline. As The Daily Wire reported:
Biden’s decision risks pulling out U.S. forces before all American citizens and U.S. allies are evacuated from the country, now under Taliban control. The president’s decision comes after the Taliban threatened “consequences” against the U.S. if it failed to meet the August 31 deadline.
“Biden made the decision mindful of the security risks in remaining the country longer, the official said, and he has asked for contingency plans in case he determines at a later date the US needs to remain in the country for longer,” CNN reported.
The Taliban declared that moving the pullout date was a “red line” over the weekend after Biden suggested leaving U.S. forces on the ground after August to facilitate evacuation operations.
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that. … If the U.S. or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Dr. Suhail Shaheen said.
“It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction,” he added.
House Democrats said Tuesday that Biden’s timeline likely does not leave enough time to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan. As The Daily Wire reported:
Schiff spoke about the situation yesterday after receiving a classified briefing and had little good to say about the Biden administration’s plan.
“I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated,” Schiff said Monday, about the timeline for evacuations, which must end in a week. “It’s hard for me to imagine that all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”
Critics ripped Biden’s decision, accusing him of abandoning Americans to the Taliban. An untold number of American citizens remain in Afghanistan under the uncertain rule of a Taliban-controlled government.
“Damn the deadline. The American people are not going to surrender our fellow citizens to the Taliban,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said in a statement Tuesday. “Americans want us to stay until we get our people out, and so do our allies. The Biden administration needs to cut the Stockholm syndrome.”
“If President Biden accepts the Taliban’s terms he’ll be the one holding the shovel in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires,’” he continued. “Mr. President, tell the Taliban we’re getting our people out however long it takes, and that we’re perfectly willing to spill Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS blood to do it.”