President Biden on Friday addressed the bid to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan in the face of the Taliban takeover of the country, as he faces a torrent of criticism for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal.

“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,” he said at a news conference from the White House.

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In a broad speech in which he pledged to get Americans home, and said that the U.S. was ramping up evacuations of citizens and Afghan and made “significant progress,” he also cautioned that he couldn’t promise what the final outcome of the dire situation in Kabul would be.

“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 said.

Officials said Friday that they have so far evacuated about 12,700 people from the country since the Taliban pressed toward Kabul, sparking chaotic scenes at the capital’s airports as nationals and Americans made desperate bids to board planes out of the besieged country.

“We’ve established a flow of flights and we’ve increased the number of people we’re moving out of the country,” Biden said.

Those looking to get out amid fears of reprisals have faced Taliban checkpoints, as well as a sluggish effort to get people out. The Pentagon said 5,700 people have been evacuated from Kabul aboard 16 Air Force C-17s over the last 24 hours. That’s 356 per flight, just over maximum capacity on the aircraft and a significant increase over the day before when flights were departing nearly half empty.  

Biden on Friday made a pledge to U.S. citizens still in the country: “Any American who wants to come home — we will get you home.”

The State Department had said Thursday that 6,000 people are processed and ready for evacuation at Kabul airport but acknowledged that there was “congestion” around the airports and reports of Americans unable to get there.

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The State Department has been including a line in its messages telling Americans to come to the Kabul airport for evacuations, saying: “The United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

The State Department’s latest guidance Friday said Americans should “use their best judgment getting to the airport” and warned that “airport gates may open or close without notice.” 

Separately, The Pentagon has said it intends to transfer 22,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to the United States, where they will be housed at military bases. Biden on Friday said the U.S. is committed to giving U.S. allies safe haven.

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“The United States stands by its commitment we’ve made to these people, and includes other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists,” he said.

It is the latest instance this week of Biden defending his administration’s strategy in both an address to the public and a separate interview this week.

“I don’t think it could’ve been handled in a way that- we’re going to go back in hindsight and look but the idea that somehow there was a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” Biden told ABC News.

Republicans slammed Biden for the remarks.

Lindsey Graham on Afghanistan: Biden should be impeached if Americans are left behind Video

“A truly ignorant and shameful performance by an American president,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted.

“No way to avoid this chaos? That’s a bald-faced lie. Joe Biden is as dishonest as he is impotent,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., went a step further: “If we leave any Americans behind, or if we leave thousands of Afghans who fought bravely alongside us behind, President Joe Biden deserves to be impeached for a High Crime and Misdemeanor of Dereliction of Duty.”

The criticism has come from abroad, as well. Earlier this week, a British MP and Afghan veteran tore into Biden for his criticism of the Afghan army.

“To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran. It’s shameful,” Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said Wednesday during a session of the House of Commons.

“Those who have never fought for the colors they fly should be careful about criticizing those who have,” he said.

The Associated Press reported that in July more than 20 diplomats in Kabul registered their concerns that the evacuation of Afghan allies was not moving quickly enough. In a cable through the State Department’s dissent channel, the diplomats warned that Taliban would seize control within months of the Aug. 31 withdrawal, officials told the outlet.

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Earlier this week, Biden ordered more U.S. troops to the country to help with evacuations and to keep operations running smoothly. Biden has authorized a total deployment of around 6,000 and as of Friday, nearly 6,000 U.S. troops were on the ground at Kabul airport and the military buildup nearly complete, defense officials told Fox News.

The White House said Friday morning that Biden will not go to Wilmington, Del., as had been scheduled, and will remain in Washington, DC. Biden spent most of the last week in Wilmington and the Camp David presidential retreat as the crisis spiraled out of control. 

Fox News’ Tyler Olson and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.

Source Link:
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-address-afghanistan-criticism-crisis

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