Washington, Aug 20 (EFE).- President Joe Biden defended on Friday his administration’s efforts to evacuate US nationals and Afghan allies of the United States from Afghanistan in the wake of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.
“We have already evacuated more than 18,000 people since July and approximately 13,000 since our military lift began on Aug. 14. More have been evacuated on private charter flights facilitated by the US government,” he told a press conference at the White House.
Biden, who was joined in front of reporters by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, stressed the immensity of the challenge.
“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history, and the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world, with this degree of precision, is the United States of America,” the president said.
The US has nearly 6,000 troops in Kabul who are securing the airport and providing logistical assistance to civilian flights, he said.
All US forces were due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Aug. 31 in accord with Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war.
But the president authorized the deployment of up to 8,000 troops to the capital after the Taliban took control of Kabul last Sunday in the absence of any meaningful resistance from the ostensibly 300,000-strong national army.
Among the 18,000 evacuees are US nationals as well as Afghans “who have worked alongside us,” Biden said.
“The United States stands by its commitment that we made to these people and includes other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists,” he said.
The president acknowledged that the government lacks precise information on the total number of US nationals still in Afghanistan.
“But let me be clear, any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” he said.
Amid reports that armed men have stopped people from reaching the airport, he said that US officials were in “constant contact” with the Taliban to ensure safe passage for civilians.
“This evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and is being conducted under difficult conditions,” Biden said. “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or that it will be without risk or loss. But as commander-in-chief, I can assure you that I will use every resource necessary.”
Looking beyond the immediate crisis, the president said that he had already been in touch with US allies about organizing humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees.
Those discussions also addressed the need “to bring international pressure on the Taliban with respect to the treatment of Afghan people overall, but including Afghan, particularly, women and girls,” Biden said. EFE