US congressional leaders urge Biden to extend Afghanistan withdrawal

In spite of Taliban threats, bipartisan members of Congress say meeting August 31 deadline is impossible

Members of a top-secret, bipartisan US congressional committee met on Tuesday to discuss the continuing challenges of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and urged President Joe Biden to reconsider the August 31 deadline.

Congressman Jason Crow, who attended the classified meeting, said that there is no logistical way to bring everyone out of the country by August 31.

“The end of this mission should come not based on a calendar date. It should come when we accomplish the mission,” Mr Crow told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

“There is broad and deep bipartisan support in Congress and across the country to extend the deadline and make sure we’re doing what is necessary to get everyone out.”

Taliban leaders have threatened dire “consequences” if the US extends the deadline set by Mr Biden.

“I am not concerned about what the Taliban thinks or what we should or shouldn’t do. We have an obligation to protect American citizens and we have a moral obligation to protect our partners and friends,” said Mr Crow.

“That’s not without risk, but if we’re not willing to use the US military to protect American citizens and our friends and allies, then what are we willing to use it for?”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said an extension of the US presence is “a violation of the agreement” and suggested the group would not allow Afghans access to the airport beyond the deadline.

“We want them to evacuate all foreign nationals by August 31 and we are not in favour of allowing Afghans to leave,” Mr Mujahid said through an interpreter.

During a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, Mr Biden appeared unshakable even when pressured by European allies who called on him to extend evacuation efforts.

Mr Crow, who served as an army ranger in Afghanistan, said that history will not look kindly on Afghan leaders who fled the country.

“President Ghani left his country and his countrymen behind and I certainly think that history is going to be damning to him along with other senior [Afghan] leaders that got on private planes and left the country,” said Mr Crow.

Mr Ghani fled the country on Sunday, August 15, with a salwar kameez and a waistcoat and is reportedly now in the UAE.

In the last 24-hour period, an additional 21,600 people were taken out of Kabul, with 63,900 people relocated since the end of July and with commercials flights aiding the efforts, White House officials said.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Mr Crow and Republican representative Michael McCaul would hold a bipartisan press conference where they will call on Mr Biden to publicly commit to continue taking people out of Afghanistan until all Americans and all Special Immigrant Visa applicants have been safely relocated.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 7:18 PM