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Biden Defends Handling Of Afghan Withdrawal In Strained Speech: ‘Plenty Of Time To Criticize’ When Mission Is Over
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 20: U.S. President Joe Biden pauses as he delivers remarks on the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The White House announced earlier that the U.S. has evacuated almost 14,000 people from Afghanistan since the end of July. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In a strained speech given Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden defended his administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, demanding that criticism and “second-guessing” hold off until after the rescue mission in Kabul is complete.

The president did pledge, however, to get all Americans trapped in Afghanistan — and all of the coalition’s Afghan allies cleared to leave the country — out by his self-imposed August 31st deadline, though he did suggest that deadline could be moved if the mission is not complete.

“There’ll be plenty of time to criticize and second guess when this operation is over, but now I’m focused on getting this job done,” Biden said in his speech.

“I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or that it will be without risk of loss, but as commander in chief I can assure you I will mobilize every resource necessary,” he continued, speaking of “significant progress” made in evacuating individuals from Kabul. “We’ve established a flow of flights and we’ve increased the number of people we’re moving out of the country.”

“Any American who wants to come home — we will get you home,” he said. He also had a positive message

Biden spent the week avoiding addressing the disastrous situation on the ground in Kabul, chronicled by reporters on the ground and individuals awaiting rescue, largely through social media. His Friday speech was more measured, taking in a wide range of issues related to the Afghanistan withdrawal, including the massive rescue mission currently underway in Kabul. Between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans remain on the ground in Afghanistan, most near the capital city, though the Pentagon now says nearly 6,000 people have been flown out of Kabul airport to safe havens in Qatar and, now, Bahrain.

In a shocking interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopolous earlier this week, Biden appeared to brush off claims that the situation on the ground in Kabul was swiftly disintegrating, and Biden was no less adamant on Friday that the situation on the ground was in hand.

Speaking on the subject of Americans waiting to get to the airport, Biden said “we know of no circumstances” of Americans having difficulty leaving the country.

“We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get through Kabul to the airport,” he said.

He later added that “To the best of our knowledge the Taliban checkpoints they are letting through people showing American passports. Now that’s a different question when they get in the rush and crowd of all the folks just outside the wall near the airport.”

Biden was adamant in his speech that the U.S. military has been instructed to respond with force to violations of the administration’s agreement with the Taliban and suggested that the U.S. was entirely reliant on the Taliban itself to ensure order in the country. As Biden exited the press conference — after taking just a small number of questions from pre-selected reporters — at least one journalist demanded to know why the U.S. was so reliant on Taliban goodwill.


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