Joe Biden has doubled down on his decision to proceed with a full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, insisting the chaos that has ensued was inevitable.
In a hard-hitting interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, the US President refused to accept that any mistakes had been made in Afghanistan, despite the almost immediate collapse of the US-trained Afghan army, the abandonment of their weapons and equipment to the Taliban and the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as diplomats and Afghans attempted to flee from the new regime.
“So you don’t think this could have been handled — this exit could have been handled better in any way, no mistakes?” Stephanopoulos asked Biden.
“No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened.
“So for you, that was always priced into the decision?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Yes,” Biden replied categorically, before admitting he had “not priced in” exactly what happened.
“But I knew that they’re going to have an enormous — Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out. What they would do. What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having — we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there.”
“We’ve all seen the pictures. We’ve seen those hundreds of people packed in a C-17. We’ve seen Afghans falling–“
“That was four days ago, five days ago!” Biden interjected without elaborating on exactly what he meant by the remark.
“What did you think when you first saw those pictures?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“What I thought was, we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did,” Biden said.
“Look, it was a simple choice, George,” Biden said. “When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country; when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them, just leaving their equipment and taking off — that was, you know, I’m not, that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.”
NATO forces are continuing with their attempts to evacuate Afghan nationals who assisted the West during the decades of occupation but the Taliban now reportedly has a firm grip on all access points to Kabul airport.
Prime minister Boris Johnson spoke with Mr Biden on a telephone call late on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in the country with a Downing Street spokesperson saying: “The Prime Minister outlined UK plans including increased humanitarian aid to the region and resettlement of refugees.
“The Prime Minister stressed the importance of not losing the gains made in Afghanistan over the last twenty years, of protecting ourselves against any emerging threat from terrorism and of continuing to support the people of Afghanistan.
“The Prime Minister and President looked forward to discussing this issue further at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders in the coming days.”