President Joe Biden angrily defended his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying on Wednesday that chaos was unavoidable – comments which were immediately seized on as shameful by his critics.
Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Biden defended the US withdrawal, which saw the Afghan government crumble and fall to the Taliban 11 days later.
On Wednesday the US military evacuated approximately 1,800 individuals on ten C-17s. Since August 14, nearly 6,000 people have been taken out of Kabul.
‘The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing — I don’t know how that happens,’ he said.
His remarks were met with disbelief.
Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the UN, said it was ‘shameful’.
‘This is such a slap in the face to the thousands of Americans still in Afghanistan,’ she tweeted.
‘He had no plan, he has no urgency, and he won’t take responsibility. #Shameful’
Liz Cheney, senator for Wyoming, who has long argued against withdrawing troops, echoed her remarks, saying: ‘A truly ignorant and shameful performance by an American president.’
Tom Cotton, Republican senator for Arkansas, tweeted: ‘No way to avoid this chaos? That’s a bald-faced lie. Joe Biden is as dishonest as he is impotent.’
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former senior counselor, shared a Fox News article titled: ‘Biden panned for ‘shameful’ comments on Afghan withdrawal during ABC interview: ‘It’s really bad’.’
Iowa congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks said that the White House’s lack of planning was ‘unacceptable’.
‘This statement downplaying his administrations lack of planning, speaks volumes to their lack of commitment to the safety of our American troops and Afghan allies,’ she said.
John McCormack, a fellow at the National Review Institute, agreed, saying: ‘Biden waited more than 72 hours since Kabul fell to commit to bringing home every American citizen stuck in Afghanistan. In the interim, top admin officials hedged. Still not clear what the plan is to accomplish this goal.’
Commentator Jack Posobiec tweeted: ‘Biden just told ABC that the Afghanistan withdrawal couldn’t have been handled better There are thousands of American citizens trapped behind enemy lines as he speaks.’
Donald Trump Jr criticized Biden’s press conference on Wednesday, during which he spoke about COVID, and refused to take questions.
‘10,000 Americans or more are stranded in Afghanistan, trapped by a terrorist organization, and our president is too much of a coward to take a single question from the media. #CowardInChief,’ he said.
Two people are seen falling from a U.S. Air Force plane on Monday, having tried to jump on board as it was taxiing away from Kabul airport
At another point in the interview, Biden snapped when asked about horrific images of Afghans falling from planes.
‘That was four days ago, five days ago,’ he said, even though the images of people falling to their deaths emerged on Monday.
Ric Grenell, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, said: Why did @GStephanopoulos let him lie about this?
‘@Abc has some explaining to do. This was an exclusive and that means they have a responsibility.’
The Massachusetts Republican Party account tweeted: ‘If #Biden actually had a plan, Afghans wouldn’t have been falling out of the sky over #Kabul.
On social media, images of chaos at Kabul airport were widely shared.
‘Unreal. Shame on the @JoeBiden administration for this mess,’ tweeted pro life activist Lila Rose.
Sharing the clip of desperate Afghans running alongside a U.S. Air Force plane, trying to climb aboard, David Patrikarakos tweeted: ‘This footage will still be played in 100 years. It now joins images of the retreat from Saigon and the naked Vietnamese girl as one of the west’s most shameful moments in modern history.’
President Biden defended his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan during an interview on Wednesday, saying it was difficult to see how chaos could have been avoided
And in a second excerpt shared ahead of the chat, Biden also insisted he’d been told by his intelligence officials that Kabul would likely avoid falling to the Taliban until the end of 2021 – instead of the mere days it took.
‘There was no consensus if you go back and look at intelligence reports,’ the president said when asked if there had been intelligence failings. ‘They said that it’s more likely to be some time by the end of the year.’
Defending his decision to withdraw, Biden added: ‘Look, it was a simple choice, George,’ Biden said. ‘When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country; when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them, just leaving their equipment and taking off — that was, you know, I’m not, that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.’
The president also sought to scotch rumors that the US is planning to withdraw all troops aiding its rescue mission in just days, amid reports the UK is concerned about a sudden departure after being kept in the dark by its closest ally.
Biden said: ‘If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out
‘So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond Aug. 31?’ Stephanopoulos then asked.
‘No,’ Biden answered. ‘Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before Aug. 31.’ But he then said, ‘If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left.’
Even normally favorable media pundits attacked Biden’s remarks.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer tweeted: ‘President @JoeBiden now says he doesn’t know how the U.S. could have withdrawn from Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing.”
‘But on July 8th, he said “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”‘
Glenn Kessler, editor of the Washington Post’s fact checking site, tweeted: ‘Biden, today: “The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens.” Reporter to Biden, July 8: “Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.” Biden: “That is not true.”‘
And Piers Morgan, Editor at Large of DailyMail.com, said: ‘Biden’s failure to even admit to his catastrophic mistake, when the whole world has watched the disaster unfurl on live TV, is both breathtakingly arrogant & disturbingly delusional. He either doesn’t care or is in denial.’
Biden has avoided taking questions on the Afghanistan crisis for more than a week.
The White House has been on the defensive for weeks as Taliban fighters raced across the country.
And officials have struggled to explain how they failed to forecast the rapid fall of Kabul and to account for chaotic scenes at the city’s airport as the embassy was evacuated.
Biden answered questions about his Afghan withdrawal for the first time in more than a week during an interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News
Video captured bodies falling from a plane as it flew out of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday. Hundreds of Afghans tried to hitch rides on departing planes
Scenes of civilians swamping planes on the runway at the Kabul airport, desperate for escape, have triggered bipartisan criticism that the Biden administration should have been better prepared.
‘What did you think when you first saw those pictures?’ Stephanopoulos asked.
‘What I thought was, we have to gain control of this,’ said Biden.
‘We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did.’
Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco worsened as…
- The US State Department told all 11,000 Americans still in Afghanistan to make their way towards Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport to be flown home
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted that the US military could not escort anyone to the airport, amid fears Taliban fighters could kidnap and kill Americans seeking to flee the crumbling country
- At a separate briefing, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Helam claimed she’d heard it was safe on the ground for Americans, and that the Taliban had made a ‘solid commitment’ to allow Americans safe passage
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also insisted there was ‘nothing’ US defense officials had seen that indicated Kabul would fall back into the hands of the Taliban in such a short space of time
- Milley claimed intelligence staff had predicted the Afghan capital could last weeks, months or even years thanks to the US-trained Afghan army, which surrendered to Taliban fighters with minimal resistance
- Seeking to blame the Afghans for their defeat, Milley said: ‘This comes down to an issue of will and leadership. And no, I did not, nor did anyone else, see a collapse of an army of that size in 11 days.’
By late Tuesday, U.S. officials said they had rescued 3,200 people from Afghanistan, including all embassy personnel, except for a core group of diplomats who remained at Kabul airport.
But commanders admit they are unable to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport to help other Americans – and their Afghan allies – to safety.
Stephanopoulos asked whether the exit could have been better handled.
‘No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look – but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,’ said Biden.
The world watched in horror as desperate Afghans ran alongside departing U.S. Air Force planes. Some tried to cling to the undercarriage as they sought to escape the Taliban
Some of the lucky ones managed to rush aboard a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft. The crew decided to fly them to Qatar and safety despite having some 640 people aboard
Critics expressed belief at the idea that chaos could not have been avoided after Biden defended his handling of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan
Dealing with the Taliban was an unpredictable business, he added.
‘Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out. What they would do,’ he said.
‘What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having – we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there.’
Critics reacted with disbelief.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton said it was impossible to see how everything went according to plan with thousands of Americans stuck behind Taliban lines.
‘No way to avoid this chaos? That’s a bald-faced lie,’ he tweeted.
A month ago, Biden told reporters at the White House that the Afghan army was better equipped and more numerous than the Taliban.
A Kabul takeover was ‘not inevitable’ and he scoffed at the idea that it would prove to be his fall of Saigon moment.
Those words have been used against him by Republicans and Democrats who say they suggest an epic failure of intelligence or decision-making.
Security experts told DailyMail.com that abandoning Bagram air base last month deprived military planners of a crucial evacuation hub, suggesting the absence of a proper plan to rescue Americans in the worst case scenario.
As a result diplomats, foreign citizens and Afghans trying to flee face crowds and Taliban checkpoints on the way to Kabul airport.
Biden said the only failure was the failure of Afghan leadership.
Taliban fighters patrol Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul. The Taliban declared an ‘amnesty’ across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed
Hundreds of people remain around Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul complicating U.S. efforts to bring home nationals and rescue Afghan allies
‘When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country; when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them, just leaving their equipment and taking off … that’s what happened,’ he said.
‘That’s simply what happened.
‘And so the question was, in the beginning, the threshold question was, do we commit to leave within the timeframe we set, do we extend it to Sept. 1, or do we put significantly more troops in?’
And Biden again said his hands were tied by a deal he inherited from the Trump administration, committing the U.S. to leave by May 1.
‘I had a simple choice,’ he said.
‘If I said, ‘we’re gonna stay,’ then we’d better be prepared to put a whole lot hell of a lot more troops in.’
Despite his protestations, Biden’s approval rating plunged to its lowest point this week.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken on Monday, as those chaotic images were beamed around the world, found that only 46 percent of American voters supported Biden’s performance – a drop of seven points from the previous week.
Biden was roundly criticized for staying at the presidential retreat of Camp David for the weekend rather than taking charge of the crisis from the White House situation room.
He returned briefly to Washington on Monday to deliver a speech again blaming Afghan leaders and former President Trump for the collapse of Afghanistan – but left minutes later to return to Camp David.
On Tuesday, it emerged he had not telephoned any other world leaders as the Taliban advance unfolded and evacuations began.
But by Wednesday he was back again at the White House, and had spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The White House said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris discussed ways to accelerate the Kabul evacuation with his national security team on Wednesday.
Biden AGAIN stands by his decision to withdraw and blames ex-Afghan president Ghani for fleeing to another country and the ‘collapse’ of the 300,000 troops they trained who dumped their weapons for the Taliban
President Biden said Wednesday it was a ‘simple choice’ to stand by his decision in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, even as chaos unfolds across the country and the Taliban assert control.
The president again laid blame on Afghan security forces for the astonishingly rapid fall of Kabul.
‘When you look at what’s happened over the last week, was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment?’ ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the president in a sit-down interview.
‘Look, it was a simple choice, George,’ Biden said. ‘When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country; when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them, just leaving their equipment and taking off — that was, you know, I’m not, that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled his country on Sunday – reportedly with $169 million in cash – as the Taliban encroached on Kabul. Ghani, who confirmed he was in the United Arab Emirates, said he was in ‘consultation’ to return to Afghanistan and had only fled to avoid more bloodshed.
‘And so the question was, in the beginning, the threshold question was, do we commit to leave within the timeframe we set, do we extend it to Sept. 1, or do we put significantly more troops in?’ Biden said.
It was the president’s first time taking any questioning from the press amid fresh scrutiny of his Afghanistan withdrawal strategy with the fall of Kabul.
He delivered an address on Afghanistan Monday, but took no questions. He gave remarks again on Wednesday, where he focused on Covid-19 matters and did not address the situation in the Middle East.
Biden, in the ABC interview, asserted the exit could not have been handled any better, and said he didn’t know how to exit without chaos ensuing.
‘So you don’t think this could have been handled — this exit could have been handled better in any way, no mistakes?’ Stephanopoulos questioned.
‘No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,’ Biden replied.
Biden seemed pleasantly surprised the Taliban were letting the US evacuate Americans from Afghanistan without issue, but said his administration was having ‘more difficulty’ evacuating Afghanis who helped the US military and now have Taliban targets on their backs.
‘One of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out. What they would do. What are they doing now?
‘They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having — we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there,’ the president said.
Biden noted that violent conflict in Afghanistan had paused in recent months only due to a peace deal signed under President Trump that promised US withdrawal.
‘I had a simple choice. If I said, ‘we’re gonna stay,’ then we’d better be prepared to put a whole lot hell of a lot more troops in,’ he concluded.
‘I had a simple choice. If I said, ‘we’re gonna stay,’ then we’d better be prepared to put a whole lot hell of a lot more troops in,’ Biden said, noting he was bound by Trump’s February 2020 peace deal
‘So you don’t think this could have been handled — this exit could have been handled better in any way, no mistakes?’ ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked the president
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled his country on Sunday – reportedly with $169 million in cash – as the Taliban encroached on Kabul. Ghani, who confirmed he was in the United Arab Emirates, said he was in ‘consultation’ to return to Afghanistan and had only fled to avoid more bloodshed
At one point the president became indignant as the ABC News anchor pressed him on the heart-wrenching scenes from the Hamid Karzai airport, where Afghanis desperate to flee Taliban rule clung to US aircraft as they taxied down the runway.
‘That was four days ago, five days ago,’ Biden said, asked about the images of Afghani stowaways plunging to their death as they clung to a US plane departing Kabul.
‘What did you think when you first saw those pictures?’ Stephanopoulos asked.
‘What I thought was, we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did,’ Biden said.
Taliban fighters have formed a wall around the airport and are blocking many from even entering the grounds.
The US said that on Tuesday it had successfully evacuated 3,200 people from Afghanistan, including all embassy personnel, save a handful of diplomats working at the airport. Officials have said they hope to be able to ramp up to 9,000 evacuations per day.
At one point the president became indignant as the ABC News anchor pressed him on the heart-wrenching scenes from the Hamid Karzai airport, where Afghanis desperate to flee Taliban rule clung to US aircraft as they taxied down the runway
US Embassy personnel from Afghanistan boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Kuwait on Aug. 17
Taliban forces stand guard outside Hamid Karzai airport, where they are patrolling who is allowed to enter
Biden has stood by his decision to bring troops home by Aug. 31. For now, they are there on humanitarian grounds to help Americans and allies to America evacuate
On Monday, Biden had defended his decision to bring home troops and put the spotlight on Afghanistan leadership.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision,’ Biden said. ‘After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way. That there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.’
‘I am president of the United States of America,’ he said. ‘And the buck stops with me.’
But only up to a point. He said the blame for such a rapid disintegration lay not with him, but his predecessor as president and Afghanistan’s leaders.
‘The truth is – this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,’ he said, his eyes narrow.
‘So what’s happened? Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country.
‘The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.’
Biden says US troops will STAY in Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline if there are still American citizens that need to be evacuated
President Joe Biden said when pressed Wednesday that U.S. troops were ‘going to stay’ in Afghanistan until they get American citizens out, even if it means running through an August 31 deadline order.
He made the statement despite his own order that U.S. troops will leave by an August 31 deadline, acknowledging the effort could run over if American citizens are still stuck in Afghanistan amid security and bureaucratic hurdles.
‘We’ve got like 10 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now. Right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?’ George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked Biden in an interview airing Wednesday and Thursday.
‘Yes,’ Biden replied.
‘So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond Aug. 31st?’ the Good Morning America host asked him.
President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan to get all U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan, suggesting they would stay even beyond an August 31 deadline if necessary
‘No,’ Biden dodged. ‘Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before Aug. 31st.’
Stephanopoulos pressed him. ‘But if we don’t,’ Stephanopoulos said, ‘the troops will stay? he asked.
‘If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left,’ Biden responded, prompting his interviewer to make one more stab at an answer.
‘And?’ Stephanopoulos asked him
‘And if you’re American force – if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out,’ Biden responded.
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos grilled President Biden on an August 31 deadline for withdrawing American troops
He was less direct on the fate of allied Afghans, putting their number at between 50,000 and 65,000, and scoffing at a higher estimate by his interviewer.
‘The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out. And that’s the objective. That’s what we’re doing now. That’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there,’ Biden said.
His answer comes after reporters have repeatedly tried to get top Pentagon officials to say what would happen if the U.S. runs up against the deadline, amid partially empty flights out of the country, even amid capabilities to get thousands out each day.
All remaining Americans in Afghanistan are being told to make their own way to Kabul airport now to be flown home and are being told that it is safe for them to make the journey despite widespread fears on the ground that the Taliban will stop them, hold them hostage or kill them.
There are still some 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan waiting to be flown home. Some are at the airport but some are too afraid to make their way there through Taliban-controlled streets. Some say they have tried and have been turned away at checkpoints.
There are also tens of thousands of Afghan nationals desperate to get out but who do not want to present themselves to the terrorists they worked against for years.
The only way anyone in Kabul can get to the airport is if the Taliban lets them through.
On Wednesday afternoon, the State Department updated its guidance to tell all remaining US citizens to make their way to the airport but it couldn’t guarantee anyone’s safety on the journey.
At a Pentagon press briefing a short time afterwards, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed troops would not go to collect anyone, saying: ‘We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people.’
At a separate press conference, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Helman insisted that she’d heard it was safe on the ground for Americans, and that the Taliban was holding up their end of the bargain.
She noted the thousands of Afghans who have made their way to the airport and said Americans should have no problem getting there.
‘The Taliban made a commitment to safe passage for Americans… it appears the commitment has been solid. We have heard all of the stories that many journalists are reporting about checkpoints, harassment, difficulties, jammed traffic.
‘We are trying to work through those issues but I will tell you this. In spite of the obstacles, many, many Afghans are finding their way to the airport,’ she said.
The Taliban – which has promised ‘amnesty’ and that it won’t interfere with any country trying to evacuate its people – has already abandoned its revamped image and is reverting to medieval punishment in the streets. Already there is evidence of people being beaten, shot and humiliated in the streets.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that troops on the ground don’t have the ‘capacity’ to go and collect people around the country of Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Helman said it is safe for Americans to go to the airport in Kabul and that they should have no problem getting there since so many Afghans have managed it
Taliban fighters patrol in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The group is becoming increasingly violent, abandoning promises to be peaceful, and their cooperation is what the evacuation mission is relying on
There is confusion over who is being allowed through.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price suggested that the Taliban would allow anyone who wanted to get to the airport.
‘We are telling them civilians should be afforded safe passage. No one’s movements should be restricted,’ he sad.
But people on the ground say they aren’t getting through without paperwork like visas or tickets for flights.
General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs Chairman, said on Wednesday that 500 people were being processed every hour to go on planes.
But overnight, US jets that could have taken 600 each flew out of Kabul with just 100 on board. Eighteen C-17 US Air Force jets were sent to remove US citizens, Afghan refugees and others, but they left carrying 2,000 people in total including 365 Americans.
One of them that was filmed by a CBS journalist on board was carrying around 300 people including translators, women and children. It leaves 1,700 that were removed on the remaining 17 jets – an average of 100 per flight.
The planes are fitted to take 150 soldiers and heavy cargo loads but in disaster situations like the one unfolding in Afghanistan, they can be used take 600 people without surpassing weight limits.
On Sunday, one of the jets took 640 Afghans out of Kabul and in 2013, a different ones as used to remove 670 people from a typhoon in the Philippines. And while the near-empty flights took off on Sunday, thousands of people were at the gates of the airport in Kabul, screaming, crying and begging to be saved from the Taliban.
Flights bound for Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Italy also took off on Wednesday with just a few dozen people on board despite having capacity to take hundreds.
In one shocking case, a German plane with room for 150 departed Kabul on Tuesday with just seven on board.
A CBS reporter was on board one of the US jets that took off on Tuesday night. She said there were 300 people on board – half the number that were removed on the same type of jet on Sunday
One of the flights had some 300 Afghans on board. All brought luggage and there was enough room for people to lie down, stretch out and stand-up
FLASHBACK – On Sunday, a single C-17 was used to get 640 Afghans out (left). In 2013 (right), 670 were removed from a typhoon in the Philippines
This is the scene at the city entrance to the airport in Kabul. It is being controlled by the Taliban and US forces are on the inside but the people waiting to fly out can’t get through the fighters at the front, and are being given no help by the State Department
In scenes of utter desperation at Kabul airport today, people began passing babies to guards at the northern entrance hoping they will be put on flights out of the country and escape Taliban rule
Women were filmed pleading with US troops that the ‘Taliban are coming’ in footage that appeared to have been taken at Kabul airport this morning as thousands of desperate Afghans try to flee Islamist rule
The Taliban turned on the crowd at Kabul airport on Tuesday, driving the hundreds back from the airport perimeter as they pushed to flee the country. They had promised to be peaceful but have already given up on it
A young woman was shot dead for allegedly refusing to wear a hijab by marauding jihadists when they captured the northern town of Taloqan in Takhar province last week. She is seen lying in a pool of blood as her distraught parents crouch beside her body in an image shared by the Afghan Ambassador to Poland Tahir Qadry who denounced the ‘butchering of civilians.’
A man cries as he watches fellow Afghans get wounded after Taliban fighters use gunfire, whips, sticks and sharp objects to maintain crowd control over thousands of Afghans who continue to wait outside Kabul airport for a way out
A Taliban fighter patrols in Wazir Akbar Khan in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Americans cannot get to the airport, which is surrounded by Taliban fighters, and the only area where troops are is inside
Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021
Taliban fighters have now encircled the airport in Kabul and are deciding who gets to come in and who has to stay out. Checkpoints have been set up on both the civilian south side of the airport and the military north side, with gunshots fired in both locations to keep crowds back
At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Dept. Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Sherman suggested that Americans shouldn’t have a problem getting to the airport because so many Afghans have managed to.
‘The Taliban has said that the roads are open, that people can move. We’ve heard all of the stories about checkpoints, harassment, difficulties, jammed traffic, we’re trying to work through those issues.
‘I will say, in spite of the obstacles, many, many afghans in all of the categories are finding their way to the airport,’ she said.
She said the US has processed 4,800 Americans to get them out, but it’s unclear if that number includes people who have already left before. Another 800 Afghans have been processed to be removed.
‘Our focus is on getting the people out of Afghanistan to safety.’
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby briefed reporters over the phone on Wednesday and admitted he hoped getting people to the airport would go more ‘smoothly’
At a conference call briefing with journalists on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby talked about the ongoing ‘processing’ issues and delays in getting people their necessary paperwork.
He admitted that he didn’t know how many Americans were still stuck in Kabul and said he ‘couldn’t predict’ how many would leave overnight.
‘I cant tell you the numbers of people coming and going. Our force flow gets smaller as we get more troops on the field. I cant predict how many people will be evacuated,’ he said.
‘We’re still working on the processing here…We’re not unaware that there has been issues out in town and harassment of individuals, that’s one of the reasons we’re in touch with the Taliban to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.
‘I don’t have a specific next step. We are in communication with the Taliban. We want to see this go more smoothly, we want to see this go faster,’ he said.
There are at least 11,000 US citizens still stuck in Afghanistan and tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the US in the war and are trying to get Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to be removed before the Taliban gives up on the goodwill and kills them.
There are now thought to be around 50,000 people – mostly Afghans – gathered outside two entrances to Hamid Karzai airport – the civilian south side and military north side, both of which are under Taliban control.
US troops controlling the military side fired warning shots into crowds on Tuesday night to stop the increasingly desperate people from overrunning the airfield again.
In the last 24 hours:
- The Taliban started abandoning its promise of peace and is now parading ‘thieves’ through the streets with ropes around their necks, smacking and shooting people and rounding up enemies
- 18 C-17 jets arrived and the total number of US troops at the airport rose to 4,500, including 1,300 Marines
- US jets only removed 2,000 people – 325 were American and at least 11,000 Americans remain stranded
- Other jets from the UK, Spain, Italy and Australia left with less than half of their seats full
- The Taliban has set up checkpoints around the airport and there are reports they are blocking people from getting through
- The State Department told US citizens to make their own way to the airport, with no promise of help getting there
- Joe Biden returned to the White House but he has not scheduled any kind of Afghanistan update
- Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley will speak at 3pm
Kirby also claimed the effort was ‘working’, despite US troops resorting to firing their weapons at the military entrance to the gate on Tuesday night to control the increasingly desperate crowds.
Between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, only 2,000 people were taken out of Afghanistan on US jets – 3,000 fewer than the Pentagon’s daily goal of at least 5,000. There are at least 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan who are yet to be removed.
Only 325 of the people removed overnight were American.
Faziya Nematy, a New York resident who visited Afghanistan in July and has become stuck, said on Wednesday there was no way for her to get to the airport with her son.
‘I, myself, am stuck here. I’m a U.S. citizen, can’t even get out, have my kids here.
‘There’s no help here, there’s not one single American troop here.
‘Now this whole thing is just full of people,’ she told WRGB.
The father of one Colorado family has told how his wife and daughters are hiding out, unable to get to the airport.
The wife and kids are Afghan natives but now have American citizenship.
They were visiting family and have now become stuck.
‘My wife and daughters are, for now, hiding in a house in Kabul.
‘I think it’s chaos. There are a lot of lives in danger. She called me on Saturday night, crying that the Taliban are all over the city and she wanted to get out,’ the man, who did not want to give his name said in an interview with Fox 31.
Panicked by the sudden fall of Kabul to the Islamists, the father booked a flight home from Kabul for his wife and children on Sunday, but it was cancelled hours before it was due to depart.
‘Around midnight, I got a text message from Turkish Airlines saying that her flight got cancelled. We can’t have what was going on [on Monday], people holding on to airplanes and things like that.’
Afghanistan veterans are also pleading for the safe evacuation of some of the translators and interpreters they worked with when they were there.
On Tuesday, the State Department started telling some Americans to make their own way to the airport and that they couldn’t help them or guarantee their safety on the way.
U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, arrives at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. He is in charge of negotiating with the Taliban to let people through to the airport
Inside the airport, soldiers are helping those who have been able to get through and are putting them on flights but outside, it is total chaos run by the Taliban
An Australian Hercules C-130 plane with room for 120 people takes off from Kabul airport with just 26 passengers early on Wednesday – one of several aircraft to depart half-full
The flight was mostly filled with Australian citizens but also included Afghan nationals with visas, and one foreign official working in an international agency
Footage shows an alleged car thief with his face covered in black tar and strapped up to the back of a truck, with his hands tied behind his back as people gather around to gawp.
Planes from other countries have been leaving half empty while Afghan women and refugees beg and cry for help at the gates, only to be ignored.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday morning that he didn’t know how many Americans were still in Afghanistan, and he couldn’t ‘predict’ how many would be removed on planes in the next 24 hours.
He skirted the blame for people not being allowed through the checkpoints and claimed the rescue mission was ‘working’ despite the shortage of flights.
‘We believe an important obligation to help get as many people out of Afghanistan as we can… our focus right now is on the airport and making sure the airport stays a safe and secure place where people can flow in and out of.
‘It is working. We had another 300 plus American citizens go out over the last 24 hours.
‘In that respect it’s working we are continuing to have communication with the Taliban about making sure we can continue that flow and special immigrant visa applicants are included in it,’ he said.
Kirby has been the face of the crisis while President Joe Biden keeps a low profile.
He returned to the White House on Tuesday night from Camp David and is due to give a COVID-19 speech this afternoon but has not made any public statement since his speech on Monday where he claimed he made the right decision withdrawing troops
In scenes of utter desperation today, people began passing babies towards guards stationed at the airport’s northern gate so they could be put on flights. Earlier in the day, women had stood at the same gate reaching towards US troops and begging to be allowed through, with one shouting: ‘Please. The Taliban are coming for me.’
The heartbreaking footage is a far cry from the ‘big-hearted’ response to the crisis pledged by western nations, which between them have vowed to take more than 100,000 refugees out of the country.