President Joe Biden has decided to stay with his 31st August deadline for completing the U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan, an administration official said Tuesday.
A Taliban spokesman, speaking prior to word of Biden’s decision, re-iterated that the group would oppose any extension of the Aug. 31 deadline. It has allowed the airlift to continue without major interference. The Taliban has allowed the airlift to continue without major interference. Pressure from US allies and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, veteran’s groups and refugee organisations has grown for Biden to extend his deadline, which he set well before the Taliban completed its swift takeover of Afghanistan on August 15.
It remains unclear whether the airlift from Kabul’s international airport can get out all American citizens and other foreigners by then, as well as former military and translators and other at-risk Afghans.
Some Republicans showed frustration on Tuesday at the U.S. seeming to comply with a Taliban edict. “We need to have the top priority to tell the Taliban that we’re going to get all of our people out, regardless of what timeline was initially set,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican.
Biden asked his national security team to create contingency plans in case a situation arose for which the deadline needed to be extended slightly, the official said. The US has repeatedly stressed the risk of continuing the airlift, due to threats of violence by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House intelligence committee, told reporters after a committee briefing Monday on the Afghanistan withdrawal that “it was hard for me to imagine” wrapping up the airlifts by the end of the month. He also said it was clear there had been “any number of warnings” to the administration “of a very rapid takeover” by the Taliban.
A 2020 deal struck by President Donald Trump and the Taliban initially set a May deadline for U.S. troops to fully withdraw from Afghanistan, after nearly 20 years of war there. Biden extended the deadline to Aug. 31 but is adamant he, too, wants to end the U.S. military role in Afghanistan.