President Biden in an interview with ABC that aired Thursday said “no one’s being killed” in Afghanistan despite reports of at least seven deaths amid the chaos at Kabul’s airport and of Taliban beating people on their way to the airport, as he defended his handling of the American withdrawal from the country.
Biden further told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that intelligence did not indicate the Afghan government would quickly collapse – despite reports that’s exactly what the intelligence said.
And the president said his advisers did not tell him to delay the troop withdrawal, despite reports that’s exactly what his advisers did.
“Oh, there is,” Biden said when asked about “pandemonium” near the airport by Stephanopoulos. “But, look – but no one’s being killed right now, God forgive me if I’m wrong about that, but no one’s being killed right now.”
Biden added: “People are – we got 1,000-somewhat, 1,200 out, yesterday, a couple thousand today. And it’s increasing. We’re gonna get those people out.”
But just two days before the Wednesday interview, seven civilians died at the Kabul airport, including multiple individuals who were clinging onto an American jet as it departed, and then fell from the sky.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has set up several checkpoints around the airport and according to sources who spoke to Fox News is arbitrarily beating and denying entry to people who are attempting to get to the airport.
State Department alerts saying that people should go to the airport simultaneously warn: “THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE TO THE HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.”
Nevertheless, Biden asserted to Stephanopoulos that the Taliban is providing “safe passage for Americans to get out.”
Biden also more broadly defended his decision to leave Afghanistan, including by saying that none of his advisers told him it was a bad idea to leave the country.
People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021. President Biden said that nobody is being killed in Kabul despite several civilian deaths this week among those trying to escape Taliban rule. (REUTERS/Stringer)
Stephanopoulos said in his conversation with the president that Biden’s top military advisers wanted about 2,500 troops to remain in Afghanistan, likely citing a Wall Street Journal report that Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned against a full withdrawal. But Biden said that was not the case.
“No, they didn’t. It was split. That wasn’t true. That wasn’t true,” Biden said.
Pressed further on whether his advisers told him to keep troops in country, Biden added: “No. Not at – not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn’t argue against that.”
“So no one told – your military advisors did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops?’” the ABC anchor retorted.
“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” Biden replied.
The president also said that intelligence did not indicate Afghanistan would quickly fold to the Taliban once Americans abandoned their mission there.
President Joe Biden speaks about the economy and his infrastructure agenda in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, Monday, July 19th, 2021. Biden said he did not remember advisers telling him to leave troops in Afghanistan, despite reports that is what his advisers told him. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“If you go back and look at the intelligence reports, they said that it’s more likely to be sometime by the end of the year,” Biden said.
“But you didn’t put a timeline on it when you said it was highly unlikely. You just said flat out, ‘It’s highly unlikely the Taliban would take over,'” Stephanopoulos replied.
“Yeah.,” Biden said. “Well, the question was whether or not it – the idea that the Taliban would take over was premised on the notion that the, that somehow, the 300,000 troops we had trained and equipped was gonna just collapse, they were gonna give up. I don’t think anybody anticipated that.”
However, NBC News reported that the CIA’s worst-case estimate of what could happen if the U.S. left Afghanistan “was pretty close to what happened” according to a former official.
The New York Times reported essentially the same thing, saying that many intelligence reports questioned whether the Afghan military could stand up on its own. A July report, according to the Times, forecasted significant risks to Kabul itself.
Biden also in the ABC interview said other American allies should not lose trust in the U.S. despite the fact many who worked with the American government were abandoned in Afghanistan. The president said America’s commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, South Korea and Taiwan are significantly different than the nation’s commitment to Afghanistan.
Evacuations from the Kabul airport are continuing Thursday, with thousands of troops and even U.S. special operations forces on the ground.
Fox News’ Rich Edson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.