‘We Will Get You Home’, Biden Tells Americans In Kabul And Vows To Help Afghan Allies

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‘We Will Get You Home’, Biden Tells Americans In Kabul And Vows To Help Afghan Allies

Enlarge this image toggle caption Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Biden said on Friday that his administration is focused on getting Americans out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31 but that he was also committed to trying to evacuate as many Afghan interpreters and others who assisted the U.S. government — a goal that he said was “equally important, almost” to evacuating Americans.

Taking reporters’ questions for the first time since Aug. 10, Biden said that he believed that the U.S. could accomplish its mission of evacuating Americans and others by an Aug. 31 deadline, but that “we’re going to make that judgment as we go.” He also said the U.S. government did not have a solid tally of how many Americans were still in the country.

“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” he vowed.

Biden made his remarks from the White House East Room — his third public comments this week on the chaos in Afghanistan.

Biden said he has been in touch with the United States’ global allies to facilitate the safe removal of American citizens, Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, interpreters and other allies from the fallen capital city. He said that he has had conversations with the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, Germany’s Angel Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron and that the group had decided to convene a summit next week of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.

“Since I spoke to you on Monday, we’ve made significant progress,” Biden said.

The president said that as of Friday afternoon, there were some 6,000 American troops on the ground to aid in the evacuation effort and that troops were rapidly moving American assets to safety, including the evacuation of 5,700 people in the last 24 hours. He said 13,000 people have been evacuated since Saturday.

Biden said that his administration had also been working with several U.S.-based news organizations to ensure the safe evacuation of 204 of their American employees.

“The United States stands by its commitment that we’ve made to these people,” he said.

On Monday, Biden defended his decision to withdraw troops

His remarks follow a widely criticized Monday briefing, which his critics argued was insensitive to the plight of Afghans seeking to escape Taliban rule. During those remarks, Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and blamed the Afghan military, which the U.S. had trained and armed, for not more forcefully defending themselves against the Taliban takeover.

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Biden said, “The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens.” The president also said in that interview that U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until all American citizens were out, even it that means staying past the Aug. 31 deadline.

In recent days, the White House has tried to emphasize the number of people — both Americans and Afghans — who have been successfully evacuated from Kabul.

Still, the scene around Kabul’s airport remains chaotic and dangerous, despite the thousands of U.S. troops now deployed to secure it, and many people trying to flee the country are simply unable to make it to the tarmac to be evacuated.

Jarring video taken on the ground showed hordes of people seeking to make it inside airport, while others ran alongside departing aircraft and attempted to climb aboard.

Graphic footage showed some who had successfully taken hold of the plane’s wings plummeting to their deaths.

Joe Biden to Americans in Afghanistan: ‘We will get you home’

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It was different from the remarks that he made earlier in the week, when he struck a defiant tone about his decision to withdraw the troops. Voters - both Democrats and Republicans - wonder about his strategy, and resent the way that he blamed others, whether Donald Trump or the Afghan army, for the catastrophe.

Biden vows to evacuate Americans and US allies from Afghanistan

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Biden lauds US operation at Kabul airport and says evacuation flights are resuming after an hours-long pause on Friday.

President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure the safe evacuation of American citizens and US allies from Afghanistan, lauding the ongoing US operation at the Kabul airport.

In a speech delivered from the White House, Biden said the United States has evacuated more than 18,000 people since July and approximately 13,000 since the airlifts began on Saturday.

“We’re going to do everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” Biden said.

He pledged to bring back to the US “any American who wants to come home”.

“I cannot promise what the final outcome will be … But as commander-in-chief, I can assure you that I will mobilise every resource necessary.”

Biden said his priority is to evacuate American citizens, but helping Afghans who aided the US is “equally important almost”.

Thousands of Afghans – some with documents to travel, some without – have thronged outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) begging to be allowed it at gates manned by US and other international forces. To get there, many braved a gauntlet of Taliban checkpoints; a number of people have been beaten or trampled.

Biden defends withdrawal

The US has made “significant progress” in its evacuation efforts since chaos broke out at the airport on Monday, Biden said.

“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history. And the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world, with this degree of precision, is the United States of America,” the US president added.

The Taliban has taken over Afghanistan in a blitz that saw them reach Kabul on Sunday with government forces crumbling and President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.

US troops remained in control of HKIA to evacuate Americans and Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) applicants, and other Afghans at risk who worked with the US or its allies in fields that might make them Taliban targets.

Washington has set an August 31 deadline for withdrawing its forces, but Biden previously said US troops would remain past the end of the month – if needed – to evacuate all American citizens.

The US president defended his decision to pull US troops from Afghanistan as well as the way the withdrawal took place, denying that the chaos that accompanied the Taliban takeover could have been avoided.

Biden has blamed the Afghan government for failing to defend its territory from the Taliban.

But reports of intelligence assessments and cables from the US embassy show that American officials had warned the administration more than a month ago of the possibility of a swift Taliban takeover.

On Friday, Biden again defended his decision to pull US troops from the country. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaeda gone?” he said, stressing that US allies are not questioning Washington’s credibility after the withdrawal. But there have been criticisms by European leaders of the withdrawal and the US deal with the Taliban that preceded it.

NATO vows to meet ‘commitments’

Earlier on Thursday, NATO foreign ministers issued a joint statement after a virtual meeting expressing concern about “reports of serious human rights violations and abuses across Afghanistan”.

The alliance also pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for “terrorists”.

“Our immediate task is now to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts,” the statement said.

“We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.”

On Friday, Biden praised the cooperation between NATO members in Afghanistan. “We went in together, and we’re leaving together,” he said of the alliance.

He also expressed sympathy for the Afghan people, saying that he discussed with his foreign counterparts the need to provide humanitarian aid to Afghans.

“The past week has been heartbreaking. We’ve seen gut-wrenching images of panicked people, acting out of sheer desperation. It’s completely understandable. They’re frightened; they’re sad, uncertain what happens next,” the US president said.

US evacuation flights out of Kabul were paused for at least eight hours on Friday, with Washington struggling to find destinations to temporarily host Afghan evacuees, CNN reported.

Biden confirmed in his speech that flights stopped for a “few hours”.

“But our commander on Kabul has already given the order for outbound flights to resume,” he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Al Jazeera a “huge task” remains to help evacuate people at Kabul airport amid the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“We have been able to evacuate thousands of people over the last two days, and the situation at the airport is much better now than it was in the beginning of the week, but we really recognise that it’s a huge task,” he said from Brussels on Friday.