While speaking to reporters after a meeting with members of the intelligence community, Democratic representative Adam Schiff said it was “very unlikely” that the United States would evacuate all Americans by the August 31st deadline set by President Biden.
“I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders, it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month,” Schiff said. “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 work arounds, it’s hard for me to see that being fully complete by the end of the month. And I’m certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence as long as it’s necessary to get all U.S. persons out, and to meet our moral and ethical obligation to our Afghan partners.”
On terror in the Afghan region, Schiff said, “I think the intelligence community has always been very sober about our capacity to detect and deter a terrorism threat from within Afghanistan once we have no military force there, once our military footprint has been reduced to effectively zero.”
Schiff also raised concerns about an ISIS-K attack.
“I think the threat to the airport is very real and very substantial,” he said. “And this has been a concern of mine for for some days now that this would make a very attractive target for ISIS-K or for elements of Al-Qaeda, but most particularly ISIS-K, an opportunity to attack both the U.S. forces as well as Afghan nationals, and indeed, the Taliban as well, and just cause chaos, that might prolong the U.S. stay in a way that ISIS-K believes might suit their interests. So it’s a very real risk, I think, to our aircraft, to our personnel, to people who have congregated around the airport. Whenever you have a mass gathering like that, it is an opportunity for improvised and other explosive devices. So it’s a real danger.”
On the potential for a deadline extension, the Taliban is saying “no chance.”
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August 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. … If the U.S. or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”
Shaheen continued, “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”
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