President Biden insisted Wednesday that chaos in Afghanistan as US troops pulled out was unavoidable—and he bristled when asked about distressing scenes at Kabul's airport. When asked by ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos if he thought the "exit could have been handled better in any way," Biden defended his decision, saying, "the idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens." He interjected when Stephanopoulos asked about scenes of Afghans falling from planes. "That was four days ago, five days ago!" Biden said. He told Stephanopoulos that when he saw scenes from the airport, he thought, "We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did."
Biden said the Taliban is now "cooperating, letting American citizens get out." He said the reason there had been no violent attacks on US troops in recent month was because of the withdrawal deal negotiated by the Trump administration. Asked whether the chaos of the last week had been a "failure of intelligence, planning, execution, or judgment," Biden told Stephanopoulos that he had a "simple choice" after the Afghan military collapsed: "Do we commit to leave within the timeframe we set ... or do we put significantly more troops in?" He said the US will do "everything in our power" to get American citizens and US allies out of the country by the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline—and if there are still US citizens in the country after that date, "we’re gonna stay till we get them all out."
- Austin says operation won't be expanded. Earlier Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the military doesn't have the firepower available to expand the mission of securing the airport and bring citizens and allies to the airport from elsewhere in Kabul, the AP reports. "We don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul," Austin said. “And where do you take that? How far do you extend into Kabul, and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that?"
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