Afghanistan: US president Joe Biden promises to get Americans home but admits ‘cannot promise’ final outcome | World News
President Joe Biden has told US citizens stuck in Afghanistan and allies who worked alongside American forces “we will get you home”, but admitted he cannot promise what the “final outcome” of the troop withdrawal will be.
In a news conference at the White House, he admitted images of people desperately trying to flee the Taliban at the airport in Kabul were “heart-breaking” and “gut-wrenching”, but insisted he is “focused on getting this job done”.
He said: “This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history. We’re going to do everything that we can to provide safe evacuation to our Afghan allies and partners.
“Any American that wants to come home, we will get you home.”
He added: “It’s time to end this war.”
Mr Biden said 13,000 people had been safely evacuated from Afghanistan since 14 August, but added the mission was “dangerous” and “every resource necessary” would be mobilised.
He said the US would “retain a laser focus” on its counter terrorism mission in the country to prevent it being used as a base to launch attacks, and warned the Taliban that any threat to the US forces would be met with a “swift response”.
Mr Biden has faced a torrent of criticism for the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, with the Taliban now back in control of the country 20 years after being ousted.
He called the pullout the “only rational thing to do” and insisted that US allies agreed with the decision.
Speaking to reporters, he said: “I’ve seen no questioning of our credibility from our allies around the world,” and he said: “I’ve not seen that, as a matter of fact the exact opposite.”
He added: “There’ll be plenty of time to criticise and second guess when this job is done.”
There is a race against time to get westerners and their Afghan allies, including translators and other vulnerable people, out as American soldiers, who are leading the evacuation effort, are due to leave the country by 31 August.
Tens of thousands of people remain to be evacuated ahead of the deadline.
There have been chaotic scenes outside Kabul’s airport every day this week as desperate crowds of Afghans try to flee the country.
Thousands are thronging the facility as they try to escape the Taliban but some face difficulties even getting to that point due to armed checkpoints by the group’s fighters.
Some US politicians are calling on the Biden administration to extend a security perimeter beyond the airport and further into Kabul so more Afghans can make it to the airport for evacuation.
But the president rejected this suggestion, saying it could have “unintended consequences”, indicating there could be additional security threats against US troops. But he added “judgements” will be made by commanders on the ground.
Some in Congress also want Mr Biden to make clear the 31 August deadline for withdrawing US troops is not a firm one.
The US government has renewed its advisory to Americans and others that it could not guarantee safe passage for any of those desperately seeking seats on the planes inside.
It said: “We are processing people at multiple gates. Due to large crowds and security concerns, gates may open or close without notice. Please use your best judgement and attempt to enter the airport at any gate that is open.”
A US defence official said around 5,700 people, including about 250 Americans, were flown out of Kabul aboard 16 C-17 transport planes in the last 24 hours.
A total of 12,700 people have now been evacuated by US forces since Aug. 14 – the day before Kabul fell to the Taliban.