Biden pledges to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave Kabul; says Taliban cooperating – World News
In a 20-minute White House press conference, Biden, flanked by vice president Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said there had been no questions about loss of American credibility due to the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. Describing the evacuation as one of the largest and most difficult airlifts in history, he disclosed that 6000 US troops had been injected to establish control of the Kabul airport, and after a pause in evacuation for a few hours on Friday to organize logistics at arrival stations, outbound flight had resumed again.
Dismissing reports that the Taliban were preventing or only selectively allowing people wanting to leave to access the airport, Biden said “we know of no circumstances that Americans can’t get to airport.” US commanders on the ground we coordinating airport access with Taliban, he said, adding that American forces were not seeking to expand control beyond the airport perimeter because that could lead to “unintended consequences.”
“Americans who want to leave can get to the airport…any Americans who want to come home, we will get you home…the United States stands by its commitment made to the Afghan people including women leaders and journalists…we are going to do everything to do safe evacuation of Afghan allies and those who will be targeted,” Biden said.
Acknowledging that the scene coming out of Kabul was heartrending and gutwrenching, Biden said he was convening a meeting of G7 countries to coordinate response to the situation.
In what was his second effort to address the crisis in Afghanistan, the US President tried to project poise, strength and assurance amid widespread criticism of the shambolic withdrawal. The question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” that underscored the Watergate scandal is scorching Washington again after his remarks earlier this week that he was never told that such a rapid collapse in Afghanistan was possible was contested by leaks claiming there were warnings and red flags galore that Taliban would overrun Kabul if the US left too quickly.
Vice-president Kamala Harris too is under fire for being indifferent to the plight of women. She is scheduled to leave on an Asia trip, with stops in Singapore and Vietnam, later in the day, trailed by exhortation contained in a letter signed by 85 individuals and groups urging her to “take actions to protect Afghan women and girls and to address this unfolding human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.”
The crisis buffeting the Biden-Harris administration comes amid a continuing stand-off in Kabul where US forces are struggling to evacuate Americans stranded outside the airport perimeter controlled by Taliban. Reports of periodic skirmishes and firing point to a tense situation, with a CNN correspondent on the spot saying “it is very hard to be an American here.”
At home, Biden is under several scrutiny after the leak of an internal memo sent though the state department’s dissent channel that warned Washington of a potential collapse of Kabul soon after the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline. The July 13 cable signed by a dozen diplomats, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, while offering recommendations to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation.
Critics of the Biden dispensation say the administration failed to address the urgency of the situation even as it is scrambling to streamline the evacuation, sending special teams to Kabul, Qatar, and Kuwait to help in the effort.
Political sniping has intensified in Washington with Biden supporters maintaining that it was the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban committing to an early withdrawal that tied the hands of the incoming President. “Our secretary of state (Mike Pompeo) signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban. This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.” Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, was quoted saying in a podcast.
Another Trump administration official, former Defense Secretary Mike Asper, told CNN that while Biden “owns” the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan, former President Trump had “undermined” the agreement through his barely disguised impatience to withdraw forces with little regard for the consequences.