Military planners hope for decision soon on August 31 deadline

Military planners are hoping for a decision on Tuesday on whether or not U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by August 31, a U.S. defense official told CBS News on Monday. 

A source familiar with the planning confirmed that the White House is working toward getting the military an answer by Tuesday on whether or not President Biden will seek to extend the troop withdrawal timeline past August 31.

Mr. Biden said in remarks on Sunday that the hope is not to extend the deadline and to have completed the operation by then but there are ongoing discussions about whether to extend. 

On Monday, a Taliban spokesman warned the U.S. military not to stay a day longer. 

“This is something you can say it’s a red line,” the spokesman said. “It will deteriorate the relation. Will create mistrust between us.”

US Afghanistan
In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit monitor the air traffic control center at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021.  Cpl. Davis Harris / AP

There are about 5,800 U.S. troops at the airport in Kabul and some equipment that would need to start moving out if the U.S. sticks with its August 31 deadline. 

“The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters when asked Monday about the deadline. “The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month.”

The airlift operation has ramped up over the past week, and the Biden administration announced Monday that military and coalition aircraft evacuated over 16,000 people in the previous 24 hours, the highest number of evacuations in that time frame since August 14. 

Overall, the operation has evacuated approximately 48,000 people since August 14 and approximately 53,000 people since the end of July when the military started assisting the State Department in evacuating and relocating Special Immigrant visa applicants and their families.