House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday defended President Joe Biden for sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, The Hill reported.
“The judgment about leaving is a judgment that the president has made, and he has to balance the equities of what is the threat to our military and the people at the airport versus the advantage of staying,” Pelosi told reporters, The Hill said.
Republican and some Democrat lawmakers have blasted Biden for the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and for the ongoing chaos in Kabul as stranded Americans try to leave the country.
Pelosi said many lawmakers “really want to encourage the president to stay longer, but he has to weigh the equities of the danger versus the advantage, and I trust his judgment.”
Reps. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., both service veterans, secretly visited Afghanistan this week and are urging Biden to extend the deadline for withdrawing troops.
The two lawmakers said Tuesday night they went to Afghanistan “to gather information, not to grandstand,” in a joint statement shared by Washington Post reporter Matt Viser.
“After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by September 11,” Meijer and Moulton said in their joint statement.
Earlier Tuesday, Biden said he believed the U.S. remained “on pace” to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies by the end of the month. He also asked top officials to prepare contingency plans if the U.S. is forced to stay longer.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were among administration officials who held a classified briefing on the situation in Afghanistan for all House lawmakers on Tuesday, The Hill reported.
After the briefing, members from both major parties criticized Biden’s “arbitrary” deadline. They argued thousands of allies could be left behind in the hands of the Taliban.
“There are more of those folks in the country in Afghanistan right now than we have the capability to evacuate between now and the end of the month,” Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a former Army Ranger who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, told reporters, The Hill said.
“That’s why the mission must be extended, and we have to do what’s necessary to get people out, and it doesn’t have to do with a date on the calendar.”
Crow added that Aug. 31 was “not a Taliban-negotiated date; this was the date that the United States set, and we set that date under different conditions during a different time.”
“Those conditions have changed,” he said. “We’re in a different world now than we were in when that date was originally set. We have to respond to that different world and that different reality.”