Biden means that US troops might keep in Afghanistan past the withdrawal interval to make sure the evacuation of all People
In an interview with ABC News, Biden said Americans should expect all US citizens in Afghanistan to be evacuated by August 31, the deadline the government has set for ending the nation’s longest war.
When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos urged what would happen if that deadline was not met, Biden said, “If there are any American citizens left, we’ll stay until we get them all out:
But that commitment did not apply to Afghans who had worked with the US during the war.
Regarding Aghan partners, Biden said there are “somewhere between (15,000-65,000) people in total, including their families,” trying to leave the country. When asked if he would keep the US troops there if they weren’t all out, Biden said, “The obligation is to get everyone out that we can actually get out and everyone who should get out. And that is the goal. ”
Biden also defiantly defended his administration’s execution of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, saying that he did not consider the crisis a failure and that there was no better way to navigate the end of the nation’s longest war.
Biden was asked if it was an intelligence, planning, execution or assessment failure that led to the situation in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think it was a failure,” replied the president.
He added, “When you had the Afghan government, the leader of that government, you got on a plane, got off and went to another country. When you saw the major collapse of the Afghan forces that we had trained, that was – you know? I am not – that happened. It just happened. “
When asked if he thought the withdrawal could have been handled better, Biden said, “No.” The president said he believed the chaos in the country was inevitable after the US troops had withdrawn.
“I don’t think it could have been handled that way, we’ll go back and look in retrospect – but the idea that there is somehow a way to get out of it without chaos, I don’t I don’t know how that happened. I don’t know how that happened, “he told Stephanopoulos.
But in public statements since the troop withdrawal was first announced in April, Biden has repeatedly told the American people that the withdrawal would be safe and orderly.
In April he said the drawdown would be “responsibly, consciously and safely”.
And in July, Biden used a question-and-answer session at the White House to downplay the prospect of the Afghan government collapsing and the Taliban taking over, saying the outcome was not inevitable. He pointed out that the “withdrawal will be safe and orderly, with the safety of our troops being a priority”. And he also insisted that there would be “no circumstance” in which American personnel would be evacuated from the roof of their embassy and declined to compare with the Saigon case.
When asked during the ABC News interview whether chaos was “always priced into the decision,” Biden initially replied yes, but then added that exactly what happened was not part of his calculation.
“One of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do to keep people from getting out. What they would do. What are they doing now? They cooperate, let American citizens out, American personnel come out, embassies out etc.
On Wednesday, Biden was briefed on the situation in Afghanistan at the White House. He also spoke about this with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The world was shocked earlier this week by images from Afghanistan showing people falling from a U.S. Air Force plane that took off from Kabul airport after trying to hold on to the outside to flee the country . When asked about pictures of people in a C-17 and videos of Afghans clinging to the sides of planes attempting to take off from Kabul airport, Biden cut the question off sharply.
“That was four days ago, five days ago!” Biden told ABC News. Many of these pictures were from Monday, just two days before the interview.
When asked what his first reaction was when he saw the scenes, Biden told ABC that he thought, “We need to take control of it.”
“We have to do this faster. We have to move in such a way that we can take control of this airport. And that’s what we did, ”he said.
The Department of Defense has deployed military teams to two gates of the airport to assist the Department of State in processing immigration seekers. Despite submitting a control report at the airport, the government sent conflicting messages on Wednesday about whether people wishing to leave the country could get there safely.
The State Department said it could not ensure safe transit to the airfield, while the Pentagon said the Taliban “guarantees safe passage”.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said during a press conference Wednesday that “about 5,000 people” have already been evacuated from Afghanistan and the US military intends to “increase” the number of people evacuated.
Milley said the U.S. military in Kabul, if directed, has the ability to extract Americans and take them to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made it clear, however, that US forces in Kabul do not have the ability to gather and extract “large groups of people”.
This is a game changing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.