US President Joe Biden said Wednesday it was impossible to leave Afghanistan without chaos as the United States pleaded with the victorious Taliban for safe passage for people to flee.
Amid desperate scenes at the Kabul airport, where US troops race against time to evacuate tens of thousands of people, Biden stood by his decision to end the US’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“The idea that somehow there’s a way out without causing chaos, I don’t know why,” Biden said in a televised interview with ABC News.
The Biden administration had long promised that America’s longest war would be ended “in an orderly fashion,” with the president saying US troops no longer have a national interest in fighting a protracted conflict.
Biden said in the ABC interview that he hoped the thousands of US troops sent back to Afghanistan for the evacuations would be by August 31, the deadline he set for ending the war.
But for the first time, he said they could stay longer, adding, “If there are US citizens left, we’ll stay to get them all out.”
The president, who has admitted he was dismayed by the rapid collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, ordered the takeover of Kabul airport to carry out evacuations.
He said the Taliban were cooperating to get Americans out, but added: “We’re having a little more trouble having those who helped us when we were there.”
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed his alarm about harassment and checkpoints for Afghan citizens, despite the Taliban’s promises not to retaliate.
“We have seen reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who want to leave the country,” Sherman told reporters.
US diplomats and military officials “are in direct contact with the Taliban to make it clear that we expect them to allow all US citizens, all third-country nationals and all Afghans who wish to leave to do so safely and without intimidation” , she said.
Planes are bristling with Afghans fearing for their lives, with deaths reported after people crawled on jets and fell on takeoff.
Sherman said the future relationship of the US with the Taliban was at stake and also vowed to closely monitor their promises to guarantee the rights of women and girls – who were excluded during the draconian regime of the Islamists in 1996-2001. of education and other work.
“The Taliban hope to create a government in Afghanistan. They are seeking legitimacy. We are all watching their actions,” she said.
“We will use every economic, diplomatic and political instrument to hold the Taliban at their word.”
Limits outside the airport
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised the United States would evacuate as many people as possible, but acknowledged restrictions with the Taliban in charge, except at the airport.
“We don’t have the ability to pick up large numbers of people,” Austin told reporters.
The evacuation will continue “until the clock runs out or we run out of capacity”.
More than 4,800 people, including US citizens and Afghans, have been evacuated since troops secured Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the US embassy is temporarily located.
But tens of thousands of Afghans are expected to try to leave for fear of retaliation from the Taliban, including interpreters for the US military, workers for US non-governmental organizations and media outlets and women’s rights activists.
Third-party nationals have faced serious problems, with the Netherlands saying the first evacuation flight returned without a single Dutch or Afghan national, as US forces blocked them from accessing the airport.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday renewed an offer to his country to help protect the airport, an offer he first made directly to Biden in June.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)