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Biden defends messy US pullout, says mayhem unavoidable

US President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, on August 18, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

US President Joe Biden has come under intense scrutiny for the chaotic exit of the military from Afghanistan, and his failure to provide a safe passage for US citizens and some Afghans from Kabul.

Addressing the situation in Afghanistan, Biden told an ABC News television interview that it had been impossible to leave Afghanistan without chaos, as the United States pleaded with the victorious Taliban to allow safe passage for people to flee.

He also said, if needed, US forces would be staying in Afghanistan beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal to pull out all US citizens.

He said the Taliban were cooperating on letting Americans get out but added, "We're having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there."

Biden had repeatedly vowed the withdrawal from Afghanistan would be orderly, deliberate and safe and that there were no circumstances that Afghanistan would suddenly fall to the Taliban, after 20 years of war and occupation.

But the Taliban, who started to make gains since the withdrawal process began in May, eventually took over the capital Kabul on Sunday.

The militants entered the presidential palace after president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, declaring that the war in Afghanistan was over.

Biden, who acknowledged that he was stunned by the swift collapse of Kabul, said, "I don't think it was a failure.”

“The idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens,” he added.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when US-led NATO troops ousted their government. In recent weeks, however, and as foreign forces abruptly withdrew from Afghanistan, the militants rapidly overran the country, and ultimately recaptured Kabul on Sunday, shortly after Ghani fled the country to an undisclosed destination. 

It was later confirmed that Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates.

Biden ordered the takeover of the Kabul airport to evacuate US citizens from the capital.

He said the militants were cooperating on letting Americans get out, but added, "If there's American citizens left, we're going to stay to get them all out.”

The US president also appeared dismissive of the images showing Afghans clinging to, and falling to their deaths from, US evacuation planes.

“That was four days ago, five days ago!” Biden said, when asked about the incident.

The US president, however, is largely blamed for the unfolding situation in Afghanistan as details emerged from a high-level Pentagon briefing that appeared to confirm Washington never had sufficient troops left in Afghanistan to facilitate the "orderly drawdown" the Democratic president had promised.

As the US withdrawal put an end to a futile two-decade war in the South Asian country, the Biden administration once again clung to their so-called tools of pressure, saying that, "We'll use every economic, diplomatic and political tool we have to hold the Taliban to their words."

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