House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff [D-CA] said it was “very unlikely” that the U.S. completes its evacuation of Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline.
“I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated,” Schiff told reporters outside of The Capitol on Monday. “It’s hard for me to imagine that all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.
“I am encouraged to see the numbers of people evacuated increasing readily to the point where we evacuated 11,000 people in a single day. Nonetheless given the logistical difficulties of moving people to the airport and the limited number of workarounds it’s hard for me to see that could be fully complete by the end of the month,” Schiff said.
“I’m certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence for as long as is necessary to get all U.S. persons out and to meet our moral and ethical obligations to our Afghan partners.”
President Joe Biden has hinted at the possibility of extending the evacuation deadline beyond Aug. 31 on Sunday.
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” the president said.
Some 28,000 people have been evacuated since the country fell to the Taliban — including 11,000 in the past 36 hours — the Biden said, as he conceded that the situation remains dangerous. Over 33,000 have been evacuated since July.
However, the Taliban warned that the Aug. 31 deadline is a “red line” and an extension could possibly mean violence, with leaders warning of “consequences.”
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on Aug. 31 they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.
“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he said, adding that extending the deadline would “create mistrust between us.”
Schiff told reporters that there will be a “vigorous” investigation into what went so wrong in Afghanistan — not just in the last few weeks but since the U.S. arrived 20 years ago.
He said they hope to reveal “why after 20 years and our efforts to stand up an Afghan government and military force that could be self-sustaining, it ended up falling apart and so quickly.”
“I think it’s fair to say … the intelligence agency’s assessments of the Afghan government’s ability to maintain itself became increasingly pessimistic over the last six months,” he said.
“No one predicted such a rapid collapse. A rapid and complete collapse.”
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