Taliban officials warned the Biden administration that they will not be able to extend their withdrawal deadline for U.S. forces. Thousands of Americans remain stranded in the country while the White House scrambles to gain some leverage in the region to pressure the Taliban and swing the chaos.
On Tuesday, Suhail Shahee, a Taliban spokesperson, said that the August 31 deadline is a “red line” that cannot be crossed. He issued his message directly to President Joe Biden.
Shahee said that if any military forces remain in the country past the prescribed date, that it will be seen as “extending occupation.” He added that the Taliban have a surprise planned for the U.S. should Biden fail to withdraw all troops by the deadline.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s Press Secretary, said on Monday that the U.S. plans to meet the August 31 deadline and declared that there were no talks regarding an extension of the deadline. Kirby said that meeting the deadline was a “mission… signed by the commander-in-chief” and promised that all efforts were being made to achieve the mission.
But Biden faces doubt from experts on Capitol Hill, and not just from Republicans. Talking on Monday to reporters, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee expressed his skepticism that the U.S. would be able to withdraw all personnel by the month’s end.
Schiff named of a long list of groups still trapped in the country, including “women leaders,” “civil society leaders,” “Special Immigrant Visas,” “Afghan press,” and of course, Americans themselves who still need to be evacuated. He said of the deadline that it was “hard… to imagine” being accomplished timely.
Biden even seems to be out of synch with his own cabinet as he personally made remarks about extending the deadline. He said that he hopes not to extend but thought that the Taliban may be appeased by the amount of progress the U.S. has made toward the goal.
In the meanwhile, Biden will soon have to face other global leaders as another G7 meeting is around the corner. An uncomfortable situation, as most global leaders excoriated Biden for his mishandling of Afghanistan.
Author: Nicholas Townsend