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Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to reconsider Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline

Several Democratic lawmakers are calling on Biden to push back the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, arguing that U.S. military presence is crucial to the safe evacuation of both Americans and Afghan partners.

Driving the news: Three members of the Armed Services Committee urged the president to reconsider the deadline following a classified congressional briefing from administration officials on the situation in Afghanistan.

What they’re saying: “The cries for help are not ones we can ignore,” Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said at press conference following the briefing.

  • Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, said, “the deadline is when the mission is accomplished, and we bring our people home.”
  • “Make no mistake, this evacuation is an extremely dangerous mission and it's set to get more dangerous in the coming days,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Va.), a former U.S. navy helicopter pilot. “I requested that the SecDef and SecState encourage the President in the strongest possible terms to reconsider that deadline.”

Between the lines: There is considerable distance between Democratic lawmakers and the administration on the correct course out of Afghanistan.

  • Kim told Axios after the news conference that the contingency of members who want the deadline extended is significant and bipartisan. 
  • Pressed again in a classified briefing today by Crow about how many Americans are still in Afghanistan Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Gen. Milley, declined to provide any estimates, two sources in the room confirmed to Axios' Alayna Treene.

The other side: Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) introduced legislation last week that, if passed, would limit the Defense Department’s ability to withdraw forces until evacuation is complete unless there is an imminent threat of hostilities. 

  • The legislation would also require the Secretary of Defense to issue a daily report to Congress regarding the ongoing evacuation operation in Afghanistan, including the number of Americans still in country.

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