UNITED STATES: The Biden administration on Monday said the U.S. aims to complete evacuations from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by an August 31 withdrawal deadline – as calls grow from allies to extend it.
The Pentagon said it was not yet at the point to seek a change, though the U.K., France and Germany will step up pressure at a virtual G7 summit.
The Taliban told the BBC that any extension would violate an agreed deal.
Within the next 24 hours, U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to decide on whether to extend the timeline for withdrawal, Reuters news agency reports.
Responding to questions about the August 31 deadline, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at a White House news conference: “Ultimately, it will be the president’s decision how these proceeds, no one else’s. The president believes we are making substantial progress. Dozens of flights, thousands – now tens of thousands of people evacuated from the country. We believe today will be an efficient and effective day and tomorrow and the next day as well.”
Since the Taliban took over Kabul and toppled the Afghan government more than a week ago, the U.S. has scrambled to evacuate American citizens, Afghans who assisted the American military, and others who could face retribution from the terrorist group.
At the Pentagon, Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters they have seen the public statements by the Taliban spokesman about their views on August 31. “I think we all understand that view,” he said.
“The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month,” though both administration officials didn’t rule out the possibility of staying longer if necessary.
Meanwhile, the U.S. allies think the deadline needs to be extended amid security threats and chaos in Kabul.
The U.K. has said that any foreign military presence at Kabul airport would not be able to continue without the U.S. troops.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters “additional time is needed”, while UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace hopes the U.S. will extend its timeline “even by a day or two”.
On the other hand, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen had earlier told the BBC that people would still be able to leave on commercial flights after the deadline.
He said: “We are not putting hurdles in their way if they have a passport issued – they can go on commercial flights at any time. We want them to stay in the country but if they intend to go, they can.”