Biden sticks to Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline, despite pressure to extend
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event with governors of western states and members of his cabinet June 30, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to keep the timeline he previously set for the full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as the military accelerates the tempo of a colossal humanitarian airlift from the country, multiple senior administration officials tell NBC News.
White House officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the president may opt to extend the mission beyond Aug. 31 for a number of reasons to include “if the Taliban stop cooperating” with U.S. evacuation operations.
Biden is slated to deliver remarks later Tuesday, which come on the heels of an emergency G-7 meeting where leaders of the world’s seven major industrialized democracies were likely to press the U.S. president to extend a self-imposed Aug. 31 departure date.
In a joint statement following the virtual meeting, the group expressed their concern about the devolving security situation in Afghanistan.
“The Afghan people deserve to live in dignity, peace and security, reflecting the last two decades of their political, economic and social achievements, in particular for women and girls. Afghanistan must never again become a safe haven for terrorism, nor a source of terrorist attacks on others,” the leaders wrote.
“Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past twenty years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan. We will continue to coordinate closely on this, and we expect all parties to continue to facilitate this,” the statement added.
A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit walks with the children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 24, 2021.
Sgt. Samuel Ruiz | U.S. Marine Corps | via Reuters
The Taliban said Tuesday that the group will not allow Afghan nationals to leave the country nor will they accept an extension beyond the end of the month.
“We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.
“They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline,” he said. Evacuations carried out by foreign forces after Aug. 31 would be a “violation” of a Biden administration promise to end the U.S. military’s mission in the country, Mujahid said.
Biden has previously said he may consider extending the departure date past Aug. 31 but has yet to do so.
Read more on the developments in Afghanistan:
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that there has been no change to the timeline of the mission.
“We remain committed to getting any and all Americans that want to leave out and we still believe certainly now that we have been able to increase the capacity and the flow, we believe that we have the capability, the ability to get that done by the end of the month,” Kirby said.
“The Taliban have been very clear about what their expectations are,” explained Kirby when asked about public Taliban statements opposing a prolonged U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday during a press briefing that the administration believed it could complete its evacuation efforts by the end of the month.
“We are engaging with the Taliban, consulting with the Taliban on every aspect of what’s happening in Kabul right now,” Sullivan said. “Ultimately, it will be the president’s decision how this proceeds, no one else’s,” he added.
A U.S. Marine provides assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 22, 2021.
US Marines | Reuters
There is political pressure to extend the deadline, particularly from within Biden’s own party.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Monday after a classified briefing with intelligence officials, that it was “very unlikely” the U.S. could evacuate all remaining American citizens, special immigrant visa applicants, and at-risk Afghans from the country by an Aug. 31 deadline.
“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,” Schiff said.
“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. And I’m certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence as long as it’s necessary to get all U.S. persons out and to meet our moral and ethical obligation to our Afghan partners.”
The White House said Tuesday that the U.S. has evacuated or helped to get approximately 58,700 people out of Afghanistan since Aug. 14, with about 21,600 of them airlifted out during 12 hours Monday.
Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 63,900 people, the White House said. There are still several thousand Americans believed to be awaiting evacuation, according to the State Department.
Crowds of people gather outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 23, 2021.
Asvaka News | via Reuters
More than 5,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Kabul assisting with the emergency evacuation efforts. Nearly 200 aircraft are dedicated to the evacuation effort in some capacity.
The Pentagon said Monday that evacuees are flying from Kabul to temporary safe-haven locations across the Middle East and Europe, including U.S. installations in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany.
So far, Afghan nationals arriving in the United States will be housed at either Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Lee in Virginia, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey or Fort Bliss in Texas.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
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