President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after his administration came under heavy criticism for failing to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies before the Taliban took over Kabul, ABC News reports.
"So you don't think this could have been handled -- this exit could have been handled better in any way, no mistakes?" ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed Biden on Wednesday.
"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 said.
"So for you, that was always priced into the decision?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Now exactly what happened, I've not priced in," he said. "But I knew that they're going to have an enormous -- 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. 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."
Biden downplayed Taliban capabilities weeks earlier:
Biden’s defense came about five weeks after he assured reporters that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would not be as chaotic as the US withdrawal from Vietnam.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army,” Biden said in July. “They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”
Weeks later, helicopters were seen evacuating people from the roof of the US embassy in Kabul as countless Afghans rushed the airport in hopes that they can escape Taliban rule.
US intelligence expected that it would take weeks if not months for the Taliban to recapture Kabul but it took just days as the Afghan military collapsed, often without a fight.
Biden vows military presence until Americans out:
Biden said that the images from Kabul showed that the administration needed to act faster.
"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," he told ABC.
The administration has thus far evacuated 3,200 people and hopes to be able to evacuate 9,000 people per day. The administration reportedly reached a deal with the Taliban to allow the military to hold control of the Kabul airport to evacuate Americans and allies. But the Taliban controls the passage to the airport, which has made it nearly impossible for Afghans to reach.
Biden vowed that the military would stay in Afghanistan to evacuate every American remaining in the country, even if it means extending the mission beyond his August 31 deadline.