Conflicts & War

US: Chaos in Kabul inevitable, deal made with Taliban for safe civilian exit

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Aug 17 (EFE).- The United States government said Tuesday that the heartbreaking scenes of chaos at the airport in Kabul were inevitable and announced that an agreement has been reached with the Taliban to ensure the safe passage of civilians who want to leave Afghanistan.

Jake Sullivan, the natural security adviser of US President Joe Biden, expressed compassion for hundreds of desperate Afghanis who tried to cling to US military planes as they took off from Kabul on Sunday.

But he denied that those scenes, which occurred after the Taliban rapidly finished their takeover of the country by seizing control of the capital, could have been avoided with better planning.

“When a civil war comes to an end with an opposing force marching on the capital, there are going to be scenes of chaos. There are going to be lots of people leaving the country. That is not something that can be fundamentally avoided,” Sullivan said at a press conference.

Although the images of the last couple of days at the Kabul airport have been “heartbreaking,” Sullivan said Biden “had to think about the human costs of the alternative path, as well, which was to stay in the middle of the civil conflict in Afghanistan.”

“Truly, deeply, my heart goes out to Afghan women and girls in the country, today, under the Taliban,” the national security adviser added. “We’ve seen what (that fundamentalist Islamic group has) done before. And that’s a very hard thing for any of us to face, but this wasn’t a choice just between saving those women and girls and not saving those women and girls. The alternative choice had its own set of human costs and consequences.”

Sullivan once again presented the rapidly unfolding developments in Afghanistan as a choice between whether or not to maintain US forces in the Asian country, although most of Biden’s critics have focused not on his decision to order the withdrawal but rather its allegedly botched execution.

In early July, the US troop withdrawal was nearly 90 percent complete. But the complex process of evacuating thousands of Americans and Afghans has forced Biden to send 7,000 soldiers to Kabul, nearly triple the 2,500 who had been stationed in the country in May.

In that regard, Sullivan said the Afghan government had urged the Biden administration against carrying out a drawdown of US embassy personnel and a mass evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans who had applied for US visas prior to the full withdrawal of American troops, “lest we trigger a loss of confidence in the government.”

“Even well-drawn plans don’t survive first contact with reality and they require adjustments. We’ve made those adjustments,” Sullivan said.

When fielding questions from reporters, Sullivan was asked whether Biden’s assertion that the “buck stops with him” means he takes responsibility for the chaos during the evacuations, any bloodshed that may be occurring in Afghanistan and the decisions not to carry out evacuations sooner.

“He’s taking responsibility for every decision the United States government took with respect to Afghanistan. As he said, the buck stops with him,” the top adviser said, referring to a speech on Monday in which the president said now ex-President Ashraf Ghani bore much of the blame for the Taliban rout.

“Now, at the same time, that doesn’t change the fact that there are other parties here responsible, as well, who have taken actions and decisions that helped lead us to where we are.”

The US mission now is focused on evacuating the estimated 11,000 Americans who are still in Afghanistan and, despite the embassy’s efforts, did not wish to leave the country when it would have been easy for them to do so, Sullivan said.

Of that total, between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans remain near Kabul, according to the Pentagon, which controls air traffic at the capital’s international airport and has plans in place to fly out one US military aircraft every hour starting Wednesday.

That would enable the evacuation of between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day over the next two weeks.

To facilitate the operation, the US has negotiated with the Taliban in Kabul and in Doha (Qatar) to ensure that an evacuation corridor to the airport remains open for US and Western nationals and vulnerable Afghans. EFE


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