War veteran in Congress laments Biden’s ‘lack of clarity’ on Afghanistan exit timetable

“We need clarity around that deadline," says Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) of Biden's Aug. 31 exit deadline
Rep. Peter Meijer
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich) in July 2021
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said President Biden is still projecting a “lack of clarity” on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding that “clear communications” from the commander-in-chief would go “a very long way to reestablishing confidence” in the mission to evaluate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

He added that the White House’s August 31 deadline for ceasing operations in Afghanistan is causing chaos on the ground.

Meijer was asked for his assessment of Biden’s response to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan thus far.

“I'm still frustrated that we're not seeing the clarity that I think we need. You know, I understand, on the human level, his defensiveness, though so much of that was around the decision of withdrawal rather than the execution. And as many have said there are a variety of opinions on whether or not to withdraw but not a lot of of discrepancy that this withdrawal has not been executed in the way that it could have been,” Meijer said during a Bipartisan Policy Discussion on the Afghanistan withdraw.

“We need clarity around that deadline. You know, in the recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, it had to be dragged out. It had to be dragged out that American citizens, you know, that DoD was looking at continuing to try to help them out after August 31," he also said.

Meijer continued, saying, "Clarity, clear communications here, would go a very long way to reestablishing confidence, and to getting us to the point where we, again, are not dealing with hordes of crowds who think the clock is ticking, that their opportunity to save their own lives is ticking, that is in hindering this operation, because of the lack of clarity on where we are going."

On Friday, Biden told reporters he was sticking with the Aug. 31 deadline to get all Americans, Afghan allies and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders out of the country. 

"I think we can get it done by then but we'll make that judgement as we go," he said. 

In April, Biden announced troop would withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terror attacks on America.

“U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th,” Biden said.

In July, he said military operations in Afghanistan would end Aug. 31.

“Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on Aug. 31st. The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way,” he said.

The Taliban is reportedly going door-to-door hunting down Afghans who helped U.S. or NATO forces.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Co.), a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said members of the House’s Honoring Our Promises Working Group are going to work on securing an agreement from the Biden Administration not to keep the Aug. 31 deadline in place.

“The bottom line is we have to look at this chronologically, in a triage, and the sole focus needs to be, right now, on securing a commitment from the administration not to hold to an end of month deadline, number one, securing the airport and extending the perimeter out to allow people to get to the airport,” he said. “And working more closely with our aid groups and NGOs to have a parallel evacuation of SIVs, American citizens and our other partners in Afghanistan. So that's number one. And that's going to be the next couple of weeks.”

Crow said the Honoring Our Promises Working Group was calling for the evacuation to start in Afghanistan back in April when the Biden administration announced it was extending the May 1 withdraw negotiated by the Trump administration.

“We knew there was a threat that we would reach this point; that it would become too late, that we would lose the capability to conduct a noncombatant evacuation effectively. That's why we wanted to start it back in April. And you know, had that happened, we would be in a very different position right now. We could have gotten tens of thousands of people out over the last couple of months,” Crow said.

Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) said he “fully supported” Biden's decision to extend the troop withdrawal date but the gradual evacuation should have started when that deadline was initially extended.

“I think what was frustrating for myself and many others was once that decision was made, we had months to start pulling out of Afghanistan and start those very, very difficult, complex airlift operations as we would scale down Afghanistan,” he said.