The August date also gives the administration more time to find places to resettle thousands of Afghans and their family members, who helped Americans during the 20-year war. The White House has been under intense pressure to protect Afghan allies from Taliban retaliatory attacks and to speed up the long and complex process of providing them with special immigrant visas.
“We can’t turn our backs and let them die,” Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They will be slaughtered by the Taliban.”
Administration officials have previously said they are looking at Guam as a potential site, but State Department officials say they need multiple sites. The foreign ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were in Washington last week, and the issue of Afghan security was raised in their meetings with Mr. Austin and Secretary of State Anthony J.
Finally, General Miller’s stay for a few more weeks, and the extension of the security umbrella at least until August, is meant to provide a boost to the beleaguered Afghan forces, if nothing else. Pentagon officials have said that leaving Bagram Air Force Base and furloughing General Miller at the same time would be a severe blow to Afghan morale.
“A safe and orderly withdrawal enables us to maintain an ongoing diplomatic presence, support the Afghan people and government, and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our homeland,” Mr. Kirby said.
The White House joined the reassurance message campaign on Friday — to some extent. Mr. Biden said that although the United States still retained the ability to conduct airstrikes to protect the Afghan government, withdrawal was not on the table.
Speaking of American warplanes and armed Reaper drones based primarily in the Persian Gulf, he said, “We’ve worked on the over-the-horizon capability, but the Afghans are going to have to do it themselves with the air force they have.”