President Joe Biden is sticking with an August 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan amid accelerating evacuations of Americans and Afghan allies still in the country, and pressure from the Taliban—, even as some of his allies in Congress continue to voice concerns that evacuations will not be completed in time.
The decision, reported by Reuters and the Associated Press and expected to be announced by Biden in remarks Tuesday afternoon, comes as the Taliban is warning of “consequences” if U.S. troops remain past August.
Biden made the announcement in a virtual meeting with fellow G7 leaders, who tried and failed to persuade him to extend the deadline, according to The Guardian.
Evacuations from the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul have been escalating precipitously in recent days: A White House official said Monday 21,600 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours, nearly double the 10,900 evacuated the day before.
Emerging from a briefing from top administration officials, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Mass.), the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he is confident the U.S. can “get as many as it is possible to get out” by August 31.
The officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, told lawmakers they have a “contingency plan” to stay past August 31 if necessary, Smith added.
Other Democrats who were in the briefing, including Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), an Iraq veteran, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), said they hold firm in their previously held belief the evacuations cannot be completed in time.
The U.S. has rushed to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans applying for special immigrant visas in the last two weeks in the wake of the Taliban’s shockingly swift takeover of the country. The Pentagon estimate Tuesday “several thousand” Americans remain in Afghanistan, but that the number is “fluid.”
“It is not possible for us to evacuate all American citizens and our Afghan partners and their families by the end of the month,” Crow told Forbes, adding that the deadline “must be extended.”
Republican lawmakers left the briefing apoplectic, with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanding their briefers resign, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stating he is “less confident” all Americans can be evacuated in time. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced a bill requiring daily reports to Congress on how many Americans and Afghan allies remain in the country.