House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Tuesday there’s “no way possible” for the United States to evacuate all Americans and complete a withdrawal from Afghanistan as per President Joe Biden’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline.
“There’s no possible way that we can get every American that’s still in Afghanistan out in the next seven days,” McCarthy said during a news conference following a classified briefing on the matter.
With time running out ahead of Biden’s end-of-August deadline, vulnerable Afghans, who fear a vengeful crackdown by the Taliban terrorist group, and foreigners continue to mass at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, hoping to escape the country.
In an update on Tuesday, the Biden administration said that more than 4,000 American citizens and their families have been evacuated from the country since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban terrorist group seized control of Kabul.
The Americans are a small subset of the nearly 59,000 who have been evacuated. Most are Afghans who are receiving or have applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) or other visas. The SIV program was created to protect Afghan allies who risked their lives helping U.S. troops in the country.
“We are just 3 weeks away from the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” McCarthy continued. “At no time should America … allow the Taliban to tell us when we have to stop bringing Americans out. We should stay until every single American is able to get out of Afghanistan.”
The Republican lawmaker’s remarks come as allies earlier pushed Biden to extend the evacuation operation from Kabul beyond Aug. 31, amid warnings from the Taliban that doing so would result in “consequences.”
Biden meanwhile has sought to assure the public that the United States is on track to complete the evacuation mission, as long as the Taliban continues to cooperate.
“We are currently on a pace to finish by Aug. 31. The sooner we can finish, the better,” Biden said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops, but the completion by Aug. 31 depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport for those who are transporting out, and no disruptions to our operation.”
He emphasized that keeping U.S. troops in the country past the deadline places them in danger from terror attacks from a group called ISIS-K.
McCarthy on Tuesday also said that the House should pass a resolution that states the Aug. 31 deadline should be extended until the evacuation mission in Afghanistan is complete.
With Biden’s deadline just days away, the White House has asked reporters for the contact details of Americans who have reported being stranded in Afghanistan.
Multiple Americans have told news outlets that they are stranded in Afghanistan and have been unable to reach the U.S.-held airport in Kabul, which is surrounded by Taliban checkpoints.
The administration began telling Americans in Afghanistan to leave months ago and have texted and emailed all who remain in the country multiple times in recent days.
U.S. troops are rarely venturing outside Kabul’s international airport, forcing Americans and Afghans who want to flee the country before the looming U.S. withdrawal to brave terrorists and others.
There have been beatings of Americans and Afghans by the group, Pentagon officials confirmed over the weekend.
Biden has asked the Pentagon and the State Department to draw up contingency plans in the event that the mission isn’t completed by Aug. 31.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.