Biden defends US pullout from Afghanistan despite panic in Kabul
The Taliban moved on Aug. 17 to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work, though residents reacted cautiously and few women took to the streets.
Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan to escape the hardline Islamist rule expected under the Taliban, or fearing direct retribution for siding with the US-backed government that ruled for the past two decades.
Evacuation flights from Kabul’s airport restarted yesterday after chaos the previous day in which huge crowds mobbed the tarmac, with some people so desperate they clung to the outside of a US military plane as it prepared for take-off. The Taliban led a pariah regime from 1996 to 2001, infamous for a brutal rule in which girls could not go to school, women were barred from working in jobs that would put them in contact with men, and people were stoned to death.
Now the Taliban are back in power, they have sought to project an air of restraint and moderation, including by yesterday announcing a “general amnesty” for government workers.
“Those working in any part or department of the government should resume their duties with full satisfaction and continue their duties without any fear,” a Taliban statement said.
A Taliban official also gave an interview to a female journalist on an Afghan news channel, and a girls’ school reopened in the western city of Herat.
However, schools and universities remained closed, few women openly took to the streets and men had shed their Western clothes for traditional garb.
The collapse came after President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. troops, under the false belief that the Afghan army, with billions of dollars in American funding and training, was strong enough to withstand the Taliban.
In his first comments since the Taliban victory, Biden admitted the Taliban advance had unfolded more quickly than expected.
But he heaped criticism on Ghani’s government, insisted he had no regrets, and emphasised U.S. troops could not defend a nation whose leaders “gave up and fled”.
“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” Biden said in his address at the White House.
“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” The United States has also come under criticism for its handling of the evacuations of Afghans.
On Aug. 16, dramatic footage posted on social media showed hundreds of men running alongside a U.S. Air Force plane as it rolled down the runway, with some clinging to the side of it. In other videos, civilians frantically clambered up an already overcrowded and buckling jetway.
“The images of desperation at Kabul airport are shameful for the political West,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
China also continued its verbal barrage against the United States over the situation in Afghanistan.
“(Washington) left an awful mess of unrest, division and broken families,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.