President Joe Biden has vowed to bring US citizens in Afghanistan home but warned of the risks involved as he dismissed criticism over the decision to withdraw troops from the country.
During a speech on Friday, Mr Biden rejected claims that his administration had misjudged the speed with which the Taliban could takeover and that he was slow to begin evacuating Americans and Afghan allies.
“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” said Mr Biden.
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But he added that the plan to evacuate thousands from Kabul airport carried risks amid concerns about the possibility of a militant attack.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the U.S. military???s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, while flanked Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the White House on 20 August (Anna Moneymaker/Getty ,Images)
US President Joe Biden, flanked by Vice-President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the White House on Friday (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty ,Images)
“Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and it’s being conducted under difficult circumstances,” said Mr Biden.
“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 that I will mobilise every resource necessary.”
The US operation is up against a 31 August deadline, although the President said this week that troops at Kabul airport providing security may remain there for longer if necessary.
Mr Biden, whose hopes lie with co-operation from the Taliban, said US officials were in constant contact with the militant group.
On Sunday, the extremists ousted the Afghan government as US forces withdrew, plunging the President into his first real foreign policy crisis.
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In his speech, he warned them that “any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful response”.
He also pledged to help as many Afghan allies flee as possible. Many are facing difficulties getting past Taliban checkpoints to get to the airport.
Cross-party US lawmakers have said Mr Biden did not act quickly enough to evacuate vulnerable people from the country as the Taliban made rapid advances towards Kabul.
A 13 July internal “dissent” memo leaked by the Wall Street Journal from diplomats at the US embassy showed they had warned of swift gains by the group and a collapse of Afghan security forces.
It came days after Mr Biden assured the press on 8 July that a Taliban takeover “was not inevitable”.
While the White House has promised to review the administration’s performance in the crisis, a source told news agency Reuters this had been set aside for now while it focuses on the evacuations.