'Stay as long as necessary': US lawmakers implore Biden to extend Afghan airlift deadline
Joe Biden, president of the United States, faces a tough task at hand. With the evacuation operations at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul accelerating, several US lawmakers across the political spectrum are now imploring the president to keep US forces in Afghanistan until the time they finish evacuating every single US citizen and Afghan allies fleeing the Taliban. More than 40 lawmakers from the US House of Representatives issued a letter to President Biden on Tuesday, in which they requested him to extend the August 31 deadline that was earlier imposed for the military mission.
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“The United States must do everything possible to securely hold the airport in Kabul until the rescue mission is complete and our citizens, allies, and vulnerable Afghans have had an opportunity to leave,” the letter read. "We trust that the previous August 31st deadline you imposed on our military mission will not apply to this effort and that we will stay as long as is necessary to complete it."
The letter was commissioned under the leadership of Democratic Representatives Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Jason Crow of Colorado but also includes long-time war critics alongside GOP hawks, along with many lawmakers who have served in Afghanistan. According to the Bloomberg news agency, the bipartisan push from the US lawmakers on the Afghanistan issue "underscores the growing unease on Capitol Hill about the United States’ messy withdrawal amid the Taliban’s rapid rise in the country."
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Others who signed the letter include Democrats who have long agitated to end the Afghan conflict, including Barbara Lee of California, the only lawmaker to vote against the war authorization in 2001, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington. They are joined by Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking House Republican, and Dan Crenshaw of Texas among other GOP House members.
Although Pentagon officials have not confirmed that the military drawdown deadline will be extended, they said on Wednesday that troops would hold the Kabul airport until the end of the month to evacuate as many as possible. In case the deadline is extended, the order must come straight from President Joe Biden.
“The mission runs through August 31st,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “The commander in chief made it very clear that we were to complete this drawdown by August 31st.” He added that the Pentagon is aiming to fly planes out every hour with the goal of airlifting between 5,000 and 9,000 people a day.
There are still 11,000 “self-identified” US citizens in Afghanistan, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. There are several times that many applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa program and other refugee programs, according to human rights groups.
(With inputs from Bloomberg)
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