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Tajikistan summons US ambassador over Biden's offensive remarks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Joe Biden speaks as he visits the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Tajikistan has summoned the US ambassador over the offensive remarks President Joe Biden made about Tajik people during his recent visit to Pennsylvania.

The Central Asian country took offense to a jibe Biden used to deflect criticism from his handling of the chaotic US withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan.

In a statement, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry said Ambassador John Mark Pommersheim was summoned and “a verbal note of protest was conveyed" to him "in connection with the statements by the President.” 

“The verbal note stated that such statements do not correspond to the spirit of friendly relations and partnership,” the statement added.

During his visit to Pennsylvania at the 20th anniversary of Sep.11, Biden, who was trying to defend the ill-prepared withdrawal from Afghanistan, said people in Tajikistan would also be “hanging in the well of the wheel” if the US pulled up a C-130 Hercules aircraft from the country.

He was referring to a tragic incident that occurred at the Kabul international airport in the early days of the evacuation operation when Afghans seeking to flee the country tried to climb aboard a cargo jet as it rolled down the runway.

The desperate scene was caught on footage that showed two people falling to their death from the aircraft's landing gear to the city below, well after takeoff.

“Seventy percent of the American people think it was time to get out of Afghanistan ... But the flip of it is, they didn’t like the way we got out,” Biden said.

“But it’s hard to explain to anybody how else could you get out. For example, if we were in Tajikistan, and we pulled up with a C-130 and said, ‘We’re going to let, you know, anybody who was involved with being sympathetic to us to get on the plane,’ you’d have people hanging in the wheel well. Come on,” Biden said.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of the so-called war on terror. While the invasion ended the Taliban’s rule in the country back then, it has now come to an end with the return of the group to power.

The unfolding situation in Afghanistan raised concerns over security threats against Tajikistan. 

Russia, an ally to Tajikistan, said previously that Washington’s chaotic, hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan had aggravated stability in the Central Asia region.

Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had sent armored vehicles and military equipment to its military base in Tajikistan amid “growing instability” near the southern border.

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