President Joe Biden will reportedly pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by August 31, bucking calls from U.S. lawmakers and international leaders to extend the self-imposed deadline until evacuations are complete.
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.
Numerous U.S. lawmakers and allies had pushed Biden to extend the deadline and hold Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport open until all evacuations are complete. Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an emergency meeting of G7 nations in part to push Biden to extend the deadline, allowing Britain, France, and other western countries to continue evacuation operations.
The Taliban issued threats over the weekend after Biden signaled that he may extend the deadline.
“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.
The U.S. has been rushing to evacuate thousands of U.S. personnel and citizens and Afghan allies since the Taliban toppled the Afghan government and took control of the country on August 14. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday that completing evacuations by the end of the month is “very unlikely.”
“I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders, it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month,” Schiff said. “I am encouraged to see the numbers of people evacuated, increasing readily to the point where we evacuated 11,000 people in a single day. Nonetheless, given the logistical difficulties of moving people to the airport, and the limited number of workarounds, it’s hard for me to see that being fully complete by the end of the month.”
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that Biden was committed to keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan until all Americans could be evacuated.
“First of all, I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not,” Psaki said claimed during a press briefing. “We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via email, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home.”