Biden’s precarious claim about US readiness in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has questionably asserted that the United States is well prepared for the sudden collapse of the Afghan government during the American withdrawal and has glossed over his broken promise to keep American troops there. down until the last Americans came out.
In his remarks Tuesday declaring the end of the 20 years war of the United States in Afghanistan, Biden claimed “extraordinary success” in the mission. It challenged the reality on the ground of a hasty and chaotic evacuation of Americans and their allies, including deadly violence around the airport.
Biden offered the low assurance – even with the last American planes leaving – that it’s never too late for American citizens to leave.
But with the withdrawal of its forces, the United States is left with diplomatic persuasion instead of military force to ensure that the Taliban extremists fighting the United States give the remaining Americans safe passage.
A look at the claims:
BIDEN, speaking of his decision in April to withdraw US troops by August 31 on the basis of the “assumption” – later proven to be wrong – that 300,000 Afghan forces would be able to “hold out for some time” against Taliban: “I still asked our national security team to prepare for any eventuality, even this one. … So we were ready when the Afghan security forces, after two decades of fighting for their country and the loss of thousands of their own, did not last as long as expected. We were ready when they and the Afghan people saw their own government fall and their president flee. “
THE FACTS: His claim that the United States is ready for the sudden collapse of the Afghan government puts the truth to the test.
By all accounts, the evacuation operation that began on August 14 was initially chaotic, with too few State Department officials available at the airport to process the evacuees. Crowd control inside and outside the airport was problematic, and the United States had to fly an airlift in such haste that large numbers of Afghans overran the airfield.
On August 16, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said evacuation flights were suspended for several hours to restore security following violations on the civilian side of the airfield.
The flow of evacuees from Kabul was also slowed at the start of the airlift because the United States had nowhere to take the evacuees – the station in Qatar was packed and the State Department had no still made arrangements with other countries for additional stations. Kuwait, Germany and other countries in Europe and beyond subsequently agreed to provide them, and the pace of the evacuation accelerated rapidly.
About 2,500 US troops were at the airport when the evacuation began, and that number will eventually rise to around 5,800. The State Department struggled to determine how many US citizens were in Afghanistan and how many wanted. be evacuated.
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that 124,334 Americans, Afghans and other allies from Afghanistan had been evacuated in total – the most accurate number proposed to date. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called it the largest aerial evacuation of civilians in American history. But a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport during frantic evacuations left 13 US military dead and 169 Afghans.
BIDEN: “The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. For the remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to getting them out, if they want to get out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wishes to leave Afghanistan. – Remarks from the White House.
THE FACTS: For the record, Biden vowed he would take out 100% of Americans before withdrawing his forces.
And his suggestions on Tuesday that many of the remaining Americans are dual nationals and may be undecided about leaving do not reflect the whole truth.
He asserted that 100-200 Americans are still there and have “some intention to leave,” adding: “Most of those who remain are dual nationals, long-time residents, but decided earlier to stay due. of their family roots in Afghanistan. ”
The White House later said 98% of Americans wishing to leave had been evacuated, without explaining how it came to such a precise percentage in the Afghan uproar. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said that Biden was telling these people that if they decide in two weeks that they want to leave, “we’ll get you out.”
These comments may underestimate the desperation of Americans trapped in Afghanistan. General Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said on Monday that The Americans tried to get to Kabul airport for the final evacuations but were unable to. No Americans, other than military and government personnel, were on board the last five jets to depart.
“We kept the option of bringing them in until immediately before the start, but we couldn’t get any Americans out,” he said. “This activity probably ended about 12 hours before our outing, although we continued to raise awareness and would have been prepared to continue them until the very last minute. But none of them made it to the airport and could be – and could have been accommodated. “
Biden unequivocally told ABC News on August 19 that the United States will not leave any Americans stranded.
“The Americans understand that we are going to try to do it before August 31,” Biden said at the time. “If we don’t, we will determine at that point who remains.”
Then? “And if there are any US citizens left, we will stay until we get them all out.”
The last American planes took off from the airport on Monday evening, August 30, one minute before midnight in Kabul.
U.S. officials estimated as many as 200 Americans were left behind, along with an unknown number of Afghans and others frantically trying to leave. By that time, more than 100,000 people, mostly Afghans, had been transported to safety during the multinational evacuations.
Now that it’s become a matter of diplomacy,
U.S. officials said diplomats were in talks with neighboring countries and others to try to arrange non-military U.S. evacuations for those who remained. Among the options, if diplomacy works, are potential charter flights from the airport when it reopens and land links.
Burns is the National Security Editor for the Associated Press. PA diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
Editor’s note – A look at the veracity of the assertions of political figures.
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