The Taliban is now giving President Joe Biden orders, telling him to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, the original deadline set months ago. The group warned Biden that if he misses the deadline, that will “provoke a reaction” and draw “consequences.”
Biden has said he wants to remove all Americans by the end of the month, but he said Sunday that U.S. officials were discussing extending the deadline. The evacuation process, the president warned, will be “hard and painful.”
“There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending,” Biden said during a White House press conference. “Our hope is we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process.”
The president also warned that things will be difficult in the coming days.
“Let me be clear,” Biden said Sunday, “the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began. Would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and the heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul.”
But Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, told Sky News: “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 US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”
In his press conference, Biden said about 11,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul in the previous 36 hours, bringing the total to 33,000. He and said defense officials “hope” they can adhere to their Aug. 31 deadline.
“We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up,” he said. “There are going to be discussions I suspect on how far along we are in the process. Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible,” Biden said. And he pledged, “Any American that wants to get home will get home.”
Biden declared that he “decided to end the war.”
“When this is over, the American people will have a clear understanding of what I did, why we did it, but look, that’s the job,” he said. “My job is to make judgments no one else can or will make. I made them. I’m convinced I’m absolutely correct in not deciding to send more young men and women to war for a war that is in fact no longer warranted.”
Biden also said U.S. adversaries are unhappy to see the U.S. finally leave.
“You’re sitting in Beijing or you’re sitting in Moscow. Are you happy we left?” Biden said, chuckling. “They’d love nothing better than for us to continue to be bogged down there, totally occupied with what’s going on. So the idea, I think, that history is going to record this was the logical, rational and right decision to make.”