Biden: Afghanistan evacuations would always have been ‘hard and painful’
President defends US exit but makes changes to airlift effort at Kabul airport after criticism over deaths and chaotic scenes
By Martin Pengelly
The evacuation of thousands of Americans and their Afghan allies from Kabul would have been “hard and painful no matter when it started or when we began”, Joe Biden insisted on Sunday, amid fierce criticism of his administration’s handling of the US withdrawal.
The Taliban took Kabul a week ago. Biden also said on Sunday the US had now “made a number of changes” to the evacuation effort, “including extended access around the airport and the safe zone”, a move to push back Taliban fighters and lessen deadly chaos around the airport gates.
“We are working diligently to make sure we’ve increased the ability to get [people] out,” Biden said.
The president would not be drawn on tactical details. But he said: “We’ve changed the gate operations and a whole range of things.”
Earlier, the Pentagon activated a rarely used programme to order six US airlines to help move evacuees outside Afghanistan.
US officials also expressed growing concern about a threat from the Islamic State in Kabul, on top of obstacles from the Taliban and bureaucratic problems at home.
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