US ‘very unlikely’ to meet Aug 31 Afghan withdrawal deadline: House Intel Chair

Washington : US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said it is very unlikely the United States will meet the August 31 deadline to completely withdraw from Afghanistan given the number of people on the ground that still must be evacuated.

“I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans that still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs [Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants], 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 told reporters on Monday.

There are tens of thousands of US citizens, Afghan interpreters and their families who still need to be evacuated from Kabul, Schiff said after he and other lawmakers received a classified briefing from US officials at the Capitol.

Schiff added that it is fair to say the US intelligence community’s assessments of the Afghan government’s ability to maintain itself after the US withdrawal became pessimistic over the last six months.

There were a number of warnings the Taliban might takeover, including a rapid takeover, but no one predicated such a rapid and complete collapse of the Afghan government and forces in 11 days, Schiff said.

President Joe Biden is expected to decide in the next 24 hours whether he will extend the Afghanistan withdrawal deadline beyond August 31 and may announce his decision during the virtual G7 leaders’ meeting on Tuesday, Reuters reported earlier on Monday citing a senior US administration official.