Who set the Afghanistan evacuation for August 31 deadline? What happens after it?
As two suicide bombs leave over 100 dead at Hamid Karzai International Airport, our team took a look at how the August 31st deadline was picked.
As US military forces in Kabul continued the evacuation of US citizens and Afghans fleeing the country, two bomb attacks created even more chaos. The suicide bombings were carried out by Islamic State Khorasan province (ISIK) and have left 90 Afghans and 12 US troops dead. The group responsible is a known enemy of the United States and the Taliban.
US Troop Withdrawl Timeline
During his presidency, Donald Trump’s administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban, which committed the United States to remove all forces by 1 May 2021. The deal was finalized at the end of February 2020.
Over the past year, the Taliban has grown in strength, as the Afghan army -- supported and trained by the US -- was abandoned by their government, leaving them without food and materials.
The army began forfeiting land and territory to the Taliban, and as the Afghan and American forces pulled back or even abandoned their camps, the Taliban took control of weapons and other materials left behind.
More news as the situation in Afghanistan unfolds:
Why was 31 August set as the withdrawal deadline?
When taking office, President Biden had stated that all troops would be out of the country on 11 September, moving back the May deadline he had inherited from his predecessor.
On 31 July, the President moved that date up to 31 August, but given the current situation, the date could be moved back. When the decision was made in the end of July, the government believed it had months to evacuate safely. Now, knowing how the situation unfolded, the US really had days, maybe weeks, to complete the troop drawdown.
When the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, federal officials were caught by surprise, forcing them to speed up the evacuation effort.
Has the deadline been extended?
After the bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport, the president spoke to and took questions from the press. During which he did not make public any plans to extend the evacuation deadline beyond 31 August.
However, when asked, “What do you say to the Afghans who helped troops, who may not be able to get out by August 31st?” the President responded that the US would continue to try and get them out.
Biden followed up, saying, “I know of no conflict, as a student of history — no conflict where, when a war was ending, one side was able to guarantee that everyone that wanted to be extracted from that country would get out.”
To date, 100,000 people have been evacuated, the vast majority of which are Afghans. These individuals and their families fear retribution from the Taliban, and many have gone into hiding.
As the situation in Afghanistan continues to evolve, the fate of the hundreds of thousands who supported US forces or would face persecution by the Taliban is unknown. The United States has concrete caps and visa processes for the people that will be let into the country.
The US has negotiated deals with various countries to take in Afghans while their visa applications can be reviewed and processed. However, many caps have been reached, and other countries have closed their borders to vulnerable Afghans seeking refuge.