President Joe Biden delivered a snub to his international allies on Tuesday, dismissing the desperate pleas of G7 leaders to extend the Kabul evacuation beyond August 31, after the Taliban issued a chilling warning to western forces who stay and banned Afghans from leaving.
The move gives the Biden administration just seven days to evacuate thousands of American citizens and local allies still stranded on the ground.
And it means that officers will have to begin ordering U.S. troops home within days in order to meet the deadline for clearing the airport.
The US ramped up the airlift by evacuating 21,600 people in the past 24 hours, but they still don’t know the exact number that still need to be flown out — and now time is rapidly running out.
Biden agreed with the Pentagon’s recommendation to stick with the withdrawal date, according to multiple reports, despite intense pressure from NATO leaders and western allies to leave troops in place and avoid a humanitarian disaster.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among the leaders who urged Biden to keep boots on the ground longer during the Tuesday meeting. European leaders are worried there is not enough time to evacuate everyone who wants out.
Biden spoke for seven minutes during the virtual meeting, according to officials.
He was scheduled to deliver an update on progress at midday, but the time came and went without word from the White house.
It suggested a frantic atmosphere behind the scenes as aides and advisers juggled logistics and coordinated with the Pentagon and State Department after Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid refused to extend the troop deadline despite secret talks with CIA Director Bill Burns.
‘They are capable of evacuating their citizens and troops by August 31’, the defiant Taliban spokesman said. ‘All people should be removed prior to that date. After that we do not allow them. We will take a different stance.
The Pentagon recommendation was made on Monday based on concerns about security risks to American forces, a senior administration official said. Biden had asked the Pentagon for contingency plans to stay longer should it be necessary, the official noted.
American officials told the Taliban that the U.S. withdrawal by Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline is contingent on the group’s cooperation in facilitating evacuations, the official said.