President Joe Biden said Friday the past week has been “heartbreaking” and the U.S. mission to evacuate Afghanistan amid chaos at the Kabul airport is “difficult” and “dangerous.” He promised that no U.S. citizen will be left behind and that the U.S and its allies will pressure the newly installed Taliban leadership on its treatment of women and girls.
In a media reset, Biden also expressed a stronger commitment to interpreters and other Afghans who had worked with the U.S. and are desperate to get out.
“We are going to do everything we can to provide safe evacuation for Afghan allies and partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” he insisted during a press conference.
The appearance was his third, following two PR debacles, first in a defensive public address on Monday — the day after Kabul fell — then in a subsequent interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that was slammed for being contradictory and devoid of empathy.
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He didn’t explain then or now why the U.S. hadn’t been better prepared for chaos attending a mass evacuation that saw thousands mob the Kabul airport. H reiterated surprise at how quickly the Afghan army abandoned position, and a conviction that a messy situation was sure regardless of how or when the U.S. exited.
Biden has sent military backup to help the process, delayed by a dangerous crush of Afghan citizens trying to flee. He said his understanding was that the Taliban is not stopping U.S. citizens. Chaos, however, may be impeding them from smoothly accessing the airport. In fact, he noted that the U.S. military literally hoisted169 Americans over a wall yesterday to put them onto planes. He said the U.S. is still trying to ascertain how many Americans were/are in the country and where.
He’s getting some blowback in the news just now for describing the evacuation as a “precision” operation.
Some 204 employees of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are out, he said. The outlets had asked for help early this week in a group email from WaPo publisher Fred Ryan to U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
In total Biden said 18,000 people have been evacuated since July, including 13,000 since August 13 and 5,700 yesterday. A Pentagon spokesman said at a briefing following Biden’s appearance that U.S. troop reinforcements how now made it possible to go out into Kabul to find Americans who may be stranded.
There’s still considerable concern about the fate of interpreters and other locals who had worked for U.S. military and nonprofits and fear reprisals with news reports are full of interviews with those who lacked the proper papers or access to the airport. The Islamic fundamentalist Taliban agreed not to interfere with U.S. citizens attempting to flee but has been blocking Afghanis.
Biden dismissed and denied reports that NATO nations were distressed by the modality of the exit and there are fears in diplomatic circles that the U.S. will be regarded as an unreliable ally. HE said the G7 nations will meet next week to discuss the situation. As the Taliban moves from insurgency to national building, he said the U.S. and allies will put “strong conditions on how we, they, treat women and girls, and how they treat their citizens.”
The troop withdrawal had been anticipated, having been announced by President Donald Trump. It was initiated by President Biden, who ran in part on getting U.S.’ remaining 2,500 troops home after a 20-year presence in Afghanistan. He said the mission there, of crushing Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, was accomplished years ago and there are other pressing geopolitical threats to face. Terrorism there is still a risk and the U.S. is maintaining what he calls an “over the horizon capacity,” or ability to keep tabs on what’s happening.
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