WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday touted “significant progress” in getting Americans and allies out of Afghanistan as the White House continues to deal with the fallout after the chaotic evacuation.
Flights in Kabul were halted for over 10 hours on Friday. The city of Qatar, which has been taking in thousands of Afghans in recent days, has reached capacity. The United States is working with its allies in Europe and in the U.S. Central Command to send flights.
“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history,” Biden said at the White House, where he was flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” Biden said, who also made the same promise to evacuate Afghan allies who helped the U.S. during the war.
“We’re going to do everything, everything that we can, to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” Biden said. “The United States stands by the commitment it made to these people,” he said.
The President said he would exhaust every resource of his office to ensure the Americans who want to come home can return safely.
“I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or that it will be without risk of loss, but as commander-in-chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary,” he said.
Biden met with his national security team on the situation in Afghanistan and postponed his trip to Delaware on Friday, the White House said.
“We’ve seen gut-wrenching images of panic, people acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it’s completely understandable. They’re frightened or sad, uncertain what happens next. I don’t think anyone of us can see these pictures, and not feel that pain on a human level,” Biden said.
The remarks by Biden cap off a week of the biggest foreign policy crisis of Biden’s presidency so far as thousands of Americans and Afghan allies are still in Afghanistan and seeking a way out.
Biden spoke to ABC News in an interview on Wednesday, saying he did not believe that the situation could have been handled any differently nor have a different outcome.
“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,” Biden told George Stephanopoulos.
The White House said Friday the U.S. has evacuated over 6,000 people in the past 24 hours, including over 200 Americans. In all, the U.S. has evacuated over 18,000 people since the end of July.
Biden downplayed any issues of Americans and Afghans getting safely to the airport in Kabul when he was peppered with questions from reporters.
“To the best of our knowledge, at Taliban checkpoints, they are letting through people showing American passports. Now that’s a different question of when they get into the rush and crowd of all the folks just outside the wall, near the airport,” he said.
Still, Biden and his administration face the daunting task of safely evacuating thousands of Americans and Afghans. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the U.S. lacks the ability to get those Afghans safely to the airport in Kabul.
Biden took responsibility for all the ongoing chaos in the country, saying it was his decision to withdraw the troops back in April.
“I made the decision,” he said. “The buck stops with me. My decision.”