U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended his decision to hastily pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, a mission broadly criticised by the American public.
During televised remarks delivered from the State Dining Room inside the White House, President Biden spent a considerable portion of his speech praising U.S. military and diplomatic leaders for carrying out one of the largest airlift missions in history to get during its 17-day span over 120,000 people.
It included over 5,500 American citizens and thousands of Afghans who once worked for the United States — out of Afghanistan, a country torn to pieces by a U.S.-led invasion that grinded on for 20 years until its dramatic end a day ago.
Despite fraught warnings of potential terror threats — and an actual suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and some 170 Afghans — that engulfed the evacuation throughout, Biden declared the mission an “extraordinary success.”
The president’s characterisation of operation “Allied Rescue” was in stark contrast with what a recent poll by the Pew Research Center has shown.
Conducted on August 23-29, the survey found that 42 per cent of the respondents said the administration had done a poor job in the evacuation, compared to only 26 per cent who considered it an excellent or good job.
President Biden in his remarks said that he would “respectfully disagree” with those who criticised the pullout as disorderly and who contended that the evacuation should have begun earlier.
Again, the president faulted his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for reaching an agreement with the Taliban that pledged the full withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops by May 1 if the Taliban met conditions including severing ties with terrorist groups.
President Biden repeatedly said the deal tied his hands when it came to making timing decisions.
Claiming that the pullout mission “still would have been very difficult and dangerous” even if it began one or two months earlier, President Biden said, “there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced.”
For those Americans — estimated by the administration at a few more than 100 — who wanted to get out but remained stranded in Afghanistan, the president’s message was that “no deadline” has been set for their eventual exodus. -Xinhua