President Biden appears to be caving to the Taliban "red line" ultimatum, rejecting all calls and pleas from U.S. allies, as well as from bipartisan lawmakers to extend the evacuation deadline past the unilaterally imposed set date, guaranteeing that thousands of innocents, American citizens, and Afghan allies struggling to evacuate will be left behind.
During a virtual meeting with G-7 leaders, Biden announced his final decision after reportedly being given 24 hours to decide on whether or not to extend the timetable for the U.S.’s troop withdrawal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who called for the emergency meeting, mostly to pressure Biden to delay the withdrawal deadline to give European allies more time to evacuate their citizens while conducting special operations in finding their citizens outside Kabul airport. However, the president ignored their pleas, claiming the risk of an attack is "very high," for the U.S. troops and wants the airlift finished by the end of the month.
Biden previously set Aug. 31 as his deadline to finish the withdrawal of the U.S. troops that led to an increase of forces returning to Kabul as they scrambled over chaotic evacuation efforts now in its second week to evacuate tens of thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban’s rapid seizing of power of the war-torn country.
Shortly after Biden made the announcement to the G-7 leaders, the Taliban declared that it will no longer allow Afghan citizens to enter Kabul’s airport, closing the roads and saying they are "not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed there is a "contingency" plan to "adjust the timeline," in her failed attempted to detach Biden from the perception that he fears the Taliban and surrounding the U.S. to their request.
"We asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timeline, should that become necessary," Psaki told reporters during Tuesday's daily press briefing while admitting the Aug. 31 deadline will officially "wind-down" to ending evacuation flights days before Aug. 31 to allow for the nearly 5,800 U.S troops also to evacuate.
Later Tuesday afternoon, after the five-hour delay in giving updates to the nation, Biden announced that the U.S. is "on pace" to finish by the deadline he set, but has asked defense officials to put together "contingency plans" in order to "adjust that timetable" to keep American forces beyond Aug. 31 "should it become necessary." Still, Biden noted that to meet his deadline, he said it would "depend on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport to those who are transporting out and no disruptions to our operation."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisles are slamming Biden for not extending the deadline, saying the one week that remains is not enough time to get every American out of Afghanistan. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) chair of the House Intelligence Committee echoed the concerns of many U.S. allies following the Gang of Eight briefing with Biden administration on the issue, saying following what he heard it was "very unlikely" the Afghanistan evacuation would be completed by next week.
"I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated," Schiff told reporters outside the Capitol Monday. "It’s hard for me to imagine that all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month."
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) said "Joe Biden looks ridiculous on the world stage" by upholding to the Taliban’s Aug. 31 deadline.
The Taliban has warned that they will not grant Biden or its allies any extension in its withdrawal evacuations, with any delay past the Aug. 31 date will be seen as crossing a "red line" that would trigger unspecified "consequences."
"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," Taliban spokesperson Dr. Suhail Shaheen told Australian Sky News Monday.
Biden’s hastily and botched handling over the withdrawal of U.S. troops led to the rapid collapse of the Afghan government amid the Taliban seizing power in Kabul. The Taliban caught the White House off guard over its quick takeover of power in the war-torn country, causing them to scramble efforts in evacuating American diplomats and citizens as well as Afghan allies from the toppled capital. The evacuation has been fraught with chaos and violence amid sporadic deadly gunfights breaking out as the Taliban continues to beat up Americans and Afghan allies attempting to reach the checkpoint despite claiming otherwise.
According to a White House official, as of Tuesday morning about 58,700 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14. About 21,600 people were evacuated during a 24-hour period. However, a senior US official told The Floridian that less than 4,000 "American passport holders" that are U.S. citizens have been evacuated with their families from Afghanistan amid the chaos evacuation effort, out of the nearly the estimated 10,000-15,000 Americans in the war-torn country.
Biden vowed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would provide a complete number on Wednesday of "exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, how many we got out, and what our projection is."