Military advisers have told the White House that the decision must be made by Tuesday in order to have enough time to withdraw the 5,800 troops currently on the ground, as well as their equipment and weapons. If the President agrees, the military anticipates “a few more days” of trying to evacuate as many people as possible before the drawdown of US forces begins, possibly at the end of this week.
The Pentagon’s decision-making ultimatum for Biden follows the Taliban’s declaration that the US must remove all forces by August 31 — a deadline that US military officials say they are still currently planning to meet. Biden and senior US national security officials, meanwhile, have said that if need be, the mission to extract US citizens and some Afghans could continue beyond August 31.
“That is the mission we’ve been assigned by the commander in chief assigned to us, and that’s what we’re trying to execute,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby at a briefing with reporters.
Biden told reporters on Sunday that “there’s discussions going on in the military about extending. My hope is we will not have to extend, but they are going to be discussions.” He said the decision might depend “on how far along we are in the process” of evacuating Americans.
Asked if the Taliban had been included in those discussions, Biden implied that topic wasn’t yet part of the negotiations happening with the group. “We’ve discussed a lot with the Taliban. They’ve been cooperative and extending some of the perimeter,” he replied. “That remains to be seen if we asked that question.”
Biden was also asked what he will say if G7 leaders — who he is scheduled to meet Tuesday and are expected to press him to extend — ask the US to stay longer. “We’ll see what we can do,” Biden said he would tell the leaders.
This story is breaking and will be updated.