Taliban to Biden: Get out by the 31st, or else

Perhaps reporters asked the wrong person whether the US would stay in Kabul past Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline. They must have mistaken Biden for someone in charge. Late yesterday, Biden suggested for the first time that troops could stay longer if Americans still remained behind Taliban lines:

Q Thank you. We’re nine days away from the August 31st deadline. Will you extend that deadline? Or what — what is your thought process on extending the evacuation operations?

THE PRESIDENT: There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process.

THE PRESIDENT: Mario Parker, Bloomberg.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Just to piggyback off the August 31st deadline, you told the G7 in Cornwall — you promised them support, back in June. If they ask for a larger — or a longer American presence past the August 31st deadline, what will you tell them on Tuesday, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I will tell them that we’ll see what we can do. Look, we are working closely with the G7. I’ve spoken with most of the leaders of G7. I’ll be doing a conference with them, I think, Tuesday — I’m not certain — and we’ll have that discussion.

And later, Biden told reporters that they’d “discussed a lot” with the Taliban over security arrangements, but that the US had not brought up an extension yet:

Q And will the Taliban agree to an extension past August 31st? Have you discussed that with them?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ve discussed a lot with the Taliban. They’ve been cooperative in extending some of the perimeter. That remains to be seen whether we ask that question.

No? Not with the deadline just nine days out and Americans and allies still trapped behind Taliban lines?

Perhaps they already know the answer, from the people who appear to be dictating outcomes to Biden:

A Taliban spokesman warned of “consequences” if the US kept troops in Afghanistan beyond its August 31 deadline hours after President Joe Biden said he could do exactly that.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said: “It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.”

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he added.

“It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”

Presumably, the Taliban take their red lines a little more seriously than Biden and Barack Obama did in Syria.

Biden scoffed at a poll from CBS showing overwhelming disapproval of Biden’s performance of the withdrawal, but he did worse in another sample. US embassy staff in Kabul sent a cable saying that the US didn’t even prioritizing protection for Americans working in the facility, let alone the Afghans working alongside of them. As far as Biden’s withdrawal plans, color them unimpressed:

Local staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are “deeply disheartened” by U.S. evacuation efforts and have expressed a sense of betrayal and distrust in the U.S. government, according to a State Department diplomatic cable obtained by NBC News.

The cable, which was sent Saturday, said memos were sent Wednesday inviting Afghan staff members at the embassy to head to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. It told them to take food and to prepare for difficult conditions.

“However, no one anticipated the brutal experience that occurred,” the cable said. …

“It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet” than face the crowds again, a staff member was quoted as saying in the cable.

It has become increasingly clear that Biden has made up this process as he’s going along. The “hint” of an extended deadline proves that, especially since he apparently decided to toss it out there before negotiators could talk with the Taliban, who now dictate outcomes in Kabul. Having set the expectation all along that Biden’s withdrawal process was date-dependent rather than conditions-dependent, the Taliban now are in a position to enforce the date. Had we not pulled military personnel from Kabul and especially Bagram before the withdrawal began, that might have given the US more leeway in determining final-exit timing.

As it is, Biden’s speeches this week give the impression of a man living inside of a fantasy, supported by sycophants who are afraid to tell Biden the truth. Apparently Biden’s toadies at the Pentagon and State have a couple of red lines they dare not cross after all.