When asked by a reporter what he plans to do if U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan following the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, President Joe Biden joked: ''You'll be the first person I call.''
NBC News' chief White House correspondent, Peter Alexander, posted the exchange he had with the president Wednesday morning.
''I asked President Biden what he will do if Americans are still in Afghanistan after the 8/31 deadline,'' Alexander posted on Twitter. ''His response: ‘You'll be the first person I call.' Took no questions.''
Biden did not take questions after a press briefing on his meeting with G-7 leaders and others at the White House.
At the briefing, Biden said he thanked the leaders and partners from other nations and organizations that are helping the U.S. evacuate thousands of American citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghan refugees that may be in danger for helping U.S. forces during the 20 years of war there.
In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen called the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. forces to be out of the country ''a red line,'' and that American troops would be extending the ''occupation'' of Afghanistan.
"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," he said. ''If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction."
U.S. officials said they understood the view of the Taliban, which took control of the capital city of Kabul and thus the country on Aug. 14.
John Kirby, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said in the Sky News story that the goal is to continue trying to get as many people out as want to leave.
''We have seen the public statements by the Taliban spokesman about their views on 31 August I think we all understand that view," Kirby said. "The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible, and while we're glad to see the numbers that we got yesterday, we're not going to rest on any laurels. The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month and as the Secretary [of Defense] said, if there needs - if we need, if he needs — to have additional conversations with the Commander in Chief about that timeline, he'll do that but we're just not at that point right now."
Republicans have lashed out at how the Biden administration has handled the withdrawal in Afghanistan, with some advising the president to extend the deadline to get more people out. Others, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have called for Biden's impeachment.
''If we leave one American behind, if we don't get all those Afghans who stepped up to the plate and helped us out, then Joe Biden, in my view, has committed a high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution and should be impeached,'' Graham said last week.
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