Biden doubles down on Afghanistan decision, notes potential terror attack
President Biden upheld his decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan on Sunday, although he admitted during an awkward press briefing that terrorist groups like ISIS could now be on the verge of striking.
âBe clear, the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be difficult and painful, no matter when it started, when we started,â said Biden, who has stumbled over his words several times as he s ‘expressed from the White House.
âThere is no way to evacuate so many people without the pain, loss and heartbreaking images you see on television,â he continued. âIt’s just a fact.
âWe have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong. “
At one point, he also doubled down on his decision to withdraw, saying, âMy job is to make judgments.
âMy job is to make judgments that no one else can or will make. I made them, âhe continued. “I am convinced that I am absolutely right not to decide to send more women and men to war for a war which in fact is no longer justified.”
Biden also said the Taliban had been “cooperative” in expanding the US-held safe zone surrounding Kabul airport, at one point calling the militants a “motley force.”
He said the “safe zone” has been extended, but acknowledged that his August 31 deadline for removing US citizens and Afghan allies could be extended.
Some 28,000 people have been evacuated since the fall of the country to the Taliban, including 11,000 in the past 36 hours, the president said, acknowledging that the situation remained dangerous.
A total of 33,000 people have been evacuated since July before the fall of the country, he said.
âThe security environment is changing rapidly,â he said. âWe know that terrorists can seek to exploit the situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops.
âThey maintain constant vigilance – we maintain constant vigilance,â he stumbled, âto monitor and disrupt threats from any source, including the likely source being ISIS, ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate.
“We are under no illusions about the threat,” he said.
When asked by a reporter if he trusted the Taliban, Biden looked awkwardly amused, smiling as he replied, “I don’t trust anyone, including you.”
“I love you, but, you know, there aren’t a lot of people I trust,” he replied. âListen, the Taliban have to make a fundamental decision. Will the Taliban be able to attempt to unite and ensure the well-being of the Afghan people, which no group has done for hundreds of years? “
Biden was also asked after leaving the podium if he would consider sanctions against the Taliban, which the British have suggested, “if they behave badly.”
âThe answer is yes,â Biden replied. âDepends on driving. “
At another point, while answering questions from reporters, he laughed and appeared to be consulting a cue card.
Biden also scanned the results of an NBC News poll that found 60% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the Afghan situation.
âI haven’t seen this poll,â he laughed.
Biden said evacuated refugees are airlifted to transfer sites at U.S. military bases and other locations in third countries, where they are processed and subjected to background checks.
Once cleared, they will be transported to the United States or other countries by a “civilian reserve fleet” of planes offered by major airlines – an operation he compared to the Berlin airlift during the war. cold.
âI think history will record that it was the logical, rational and fair decision to make,â he said of the decision to step down.
Biden has come under increasing pressure since he ordered US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, sparking a rapid takeover by the Taliban and stranding thousands of US citizens and US allies in the Kabul airport.
On Sunday morning, Biden met with national security officials to take stock of the situation, the White House said in a statement.
âThey discussed the security situation and counterterrorism operations, including ISIS-K,â he said. âThe national security team discussed the intensive diplomatic and military efforts underway to facilitate transit through third country transit centers, affirming the importance of the contributions that more than two dozen partner countries are making to this global effort. “
Administration officials said 7,800 people were evacuated from the airport in the Afghan capital in the last day. Military officials said earlier that 17,000 were evacuated last week, including 2,500 US citizens.
Nonetheless, thousands of people remain in Kabul desperate to flee the Taliban, including American citizens and Afghans who have helped during the two decades of military presence.
Earlier Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin said on ABC’s “This Week” that there had been “no good option” once the decision to step down was made.
Austin said estimates had been that US-trained Afghan forces would last for up to two years – but they collapsed within days.
Meanwhile, Biden also addressed the impact of Tropical Storm Henri on Sunday, saying FEMA had been deployed to help deal with the storm.
âFEMA has already prepositioned resources in the region to accelerate our response capacity, including food, water, vital communications equipment as well as generators,â he said.
States of emergency were declared in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island before the storm, which hit the northeast on Sunday.
Henri, which made landfall off the coast of Montauk as a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday night, made landfall in Rhode Island as a tropical storm shortly after noon on Sunday with sustained winds of 60 mph and gusts up to 70 mph, said the National Hurricane Center.
The storm hits the area with heavy rains and storm surges.