President Biden has 24 hours to decide whether to extend the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan — as the president also prepares to face frustrated G7 leaders, who have been left scrambling to evacuate their own citizens in the chaos.
The military informed the administration on Monday of the tight timeline because the Pentagon said it will require days to fly out the 6,000 troops deployed to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport during the airlift and the other civilians still awaiting flights, Reuters reported.
Biden could make the decision on Tuesday when he discusses the situation with the leaders of the G-7 nations.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the virtual meeting, is expected to press Biden to delay the withdrawal so allies could have the time to evacuate their citizens and Afghans who worked with their governments and military during the 20-year war.
Other G-7 leaders are also on board with an extension.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was talking to the US and Britain about making sure that civilians can still be flown out after the deadline.
“Even if the deadline is Aug. 31 or is extended by a few days, it will not be enough to evacuate those we want to evacuate and those that the United States wants to evacuate,” Maas said.
“That’s why we are working with the United States and Britain to ensure that once the military evacuation is completed it is still possible to fly civilians out of Kabul airport,” he said.
Amid the developments, CIA Director William Burns traveled to Kabul to huddle with top Taliban official Abdul Ghani Baradar — the highest-level meeting between the insurgent group and the administration since Taliban fighters took control more than a week ago, the Washington Post reported.
The report said details of the discussion were not announced but the impending deadline was likely a topic of discussion.
A spokesman for the extremist group on Monday said Aug. 31 represents a “red line.”
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on Aug. 31 they would withdraw all their military forces,” Suhail Shaheen said.
“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed the concerns of many allies when he said it was “very unlikely” that the Afghanistan evacuation would be completed by Aug. 31.
“I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated,” Schiff said Monday. “It’s hard for me to imagine that all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”
The president raised the possibility of extending the deadline during a speech Sunday in which he acknowledged the threat from terror groups like ISIS in Afghanistan and said the evacuation was going to be “hard and painful” no matter when it began.
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” Biden said at the White House.
Despite the chaos surrounding the US’ evacuation efforts, more than 21,000 people were evacuated in the past 24 hours, the White House said Tuesday.
Since Aug. 14, more than 58,700 people have been flown out of Afghanistan, it said.
With Post wires