President Biden announced Tuesday afternoon that he will not extend the August 31 military withdrawal deadline. The news comes after numerous lawmakers such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and world leaders like Boris Johnson urged Biden to extend the deadline as thousands of Americans remain trapped in Afghanistan.
The Hill reports:
Biden will accept a recommendation from Pentagon officials that more time is not necessary to evacuate American citizens and civilians from the country. Multiple news outlets reported, however, that Biden has asked for contingency plans should the situation change and more time is needed.
Biden has previously said U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan into September if needed to bring all Americans home, but he has expressed optimism an extension would not be necessary.
Biden’s choice to keep the hard deadline also comes after Taliban leaders said there would be “consequences” if Americans remained into September or beyond. (per The Hill)
“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,” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in Qatar’s capital of Doha.
“If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Shaheen added. “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”
It’s unclear exactly how many Americans remain trapped in Afghanistan but experts speculate the number ranges between 10,000 to 15,000. However, the number of vulnerable Afghans who are in direct threat of Taliban rule reach far beyond those numbers, nearby countries are bracing themselves for a possible refugee crisis.
The New York Times reports:
The Taliban said on Tuesday that they would block Afghans trying to leave the country from traveling to Kabul’s airport and would reject any plans to extend the deadline for American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this month.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, noted that chaos at the airport remained a dangerous problem, and said the way to it was being closed to Afghan citizens to prevent people from joining the crowds.
“The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road,” Mr. Mujahid said, without clarifying how long that policy would be in effect.
He urged the crowds of Afghans thronging the airport in hopes of leaving the country to instead go home, saying that the Taliban would “guarantee their security,” and noted that there was no list of people targeted for reprisals.