A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on President Joe Biden to extend his self-imposed August 31 deadline to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Americans and hundreds of thousands of U.S. allies remain in the largely Taliban-controlled country as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw in a matter of days. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) secured the support of dozens of lawmakers in the House Problem Solvers Caucus to push Biden to extend the withdrawal deadline and continue evacuations.
“As Democrats and Republicans, we stand united in our commitment to protecting U.S. citizens, diplomats, intelligence officers, and our foreign partners who are currently attempting to flee Afghanistan. In this time of tremendous danger, politics must be put aside to advance our common goals,” the group said in a statement.
“From this week’s bipartisan Member briefing, it is apparent that the Administration’s set date for departure from Afghanistan on August 31st does not provide enough time to evacuate all American citizens and our partners. We respectfully call on the Administration to reconsider its timeline and provide a clear plan to Congress that will result in the completion of our shared national objectives,” it continued.
An estimated quarter of a million Afghans who worked with the U.S. military and their families remain in Afghanistan at high risk to suffer retribution from the Taliban. Evacuating so many people in the short amount of time until August 31 is an all but impossible scenario. The Biden administration is conducting a frenzied last-minute evacuation of hundreds of American citizens still in the country.
On Tuesday, Biden rebuffed calls from U.S. allies, declining to extend the August 31 deadline. Biden made the announcement shortly after visiting with the leaders of Britain, France, and other NATO allies who pressed the president to keep Hamid Karzai International Airport out of Taliban control.
“The sooner we can finish, the better,” Biden said during an address as the White House. “Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that [Islamic State-affiliate] ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport, attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.”
“Thus far, the Taliban have been taking steps to work with us so we can get our people out,” he said. “But it’s a tenuous situation. We’ve already had some gun fighting break out. We run a serious risk of it breaking down, as time goes on.”
Biden made his decision days after the Taliban threatened “consequences” should the U.S. extend the deadline for pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
“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.