US President Joe Biden on Tuesday dismissed criticism of his decision to meet this week’s deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan, in a move that left 100 to 200 Americans in the country alongside thousands of Afghan citizens allied with the United States.
In a televised address from the White House dining room, Mr. Biden criticized the ousted Afghan government’s inability to resist the Taliban’s rapid advance, which has forced a swift and humiliating exit from the United States and its NATO allies, and highlighted the role it played. Former US President Donald Trump.
Biden said the Trump-brokered deal allowed «the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top warlords, among those who just took control.»
«By the time I took power, the Taliban were in their strongest military position since 2001, controlling or competing for nearly half of the country,» he said.
Biden said US officials believe that between 100 and 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan «with some intent to leave.» Most of those who remained dual citizens and long-time residents decided to stay earlier, he said, adding that the United States was determined to get them out.
Several lawmakers have called for Biden to extend the August 31 deadline to allow more Americans and Afghans to escape, but Biden said it was «not an arbitrary deadline,» but rather «designed to save lives.»
“I take responsibility for the decision. Some are now saying that we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn’t have done it in a more orderly manner,” Mr. Biden said.
Even if evacuations begin in June or July, he said, «there is still a rush to the airport» by people wanting to leave.
The last American soldier left Afghanistan this week as the Taliban seized control of two decades of military intervention that Biden was bent on ending.
And while most Americans agree with him, this end has not been achieved smoothly. The Biden presidency, which has been focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding the economy, now faces political investigations into handling the withdrawal as well as the logistical challenge of finding new homes for the thousands of Afghans being moved to US military bases.
Biden also must contend with a surge in coronavirus infections, disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, and a series of tough deadlines to get the signature spending action through Congress.
Republicans and some Democrats have expressed frustration and anger at Afghanistan’s rapid fall into the hands of the Taliban, former leaders ousted by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and what they say is a failed withdrawal.
Republicans are expected to use the crisis in an attempt to disrupt Biden’s policy and legislative agenda and as a talking point in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans hope to gain control of the Senate and House of Representatives from Biden’s Democrats, which could derail the second half of his presidency.
Biden said more troops would have had to go into Afghanistan and in danger if the exit had not occurred.
Less than 40 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, and three-quarters of American troops want to stay in the country until all American civilians are out, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Monday.
Leading House Republicans, including senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said on Monday they wrote to Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, requesting details of a plan to bring Americans home and evacuate others left behind.
«Congress has a right to know how to facilitate and carry out evacuations,» McCall said in a statement.
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