President Biden promised that the United States would welcome Afghan allies escaping the Taliban into the U.S., but only after they have been “screened and cleared” at military bases and transit centers.
Biden said that the U.S. has set up processing stations in third countries, “working with more than two dozen countries across four continents.” When planes take off from Kabul, they go to U.S. military bases and these processing stations,” he said in a press briefing on Sunday.
“Once screened and cleared, we will welcome these Afghans… to their new home in the United States of America,” Biden pledged.
The president also said the Taliban has to make a decision as to whether it will assume the responsibility to “unite and provide for” the “well-being” of the Afghan people.
“Look, the Taliban has to make a fundamental decision. Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the well-being of the people of Afghanistan, which no group has ever done, since hundreds of years?” Biden said.
The president also emphasized the growing terror threats from other countries, saying he is “under no illusion about the threat from ISIS-K,” a reference to the Islamic State’s Korasan Provice in Central Asia.
Biden celebrated his administration’s efforts to evacuate Americans and the Afghans who aided the U.S.’s war efforts.
The U.S. evacuated “approximately 11,000 people out of Kabul in less than 36 hours,” the president said. In total, American forces have evacuated 33,000 persons since July, he added.
“Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible,” Biden said. He noted that American troops are contacting U.S. citizens in the country by phone, by email, and by others means to ascertain whether or not they intend to flee before the August 31 deadline.
“Any American who wants to get home will get home,” the president promised.
Americans and Afghans who flee the country go to transit centers across the world. Biden mentioned that countries around the Persian Gulf, in central Asia, and in Europe have agreed to set up these centers, including Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Qatar, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and others.
Biden again dodged criticism about the way he withdrew forces from Afghanistan.
A reporter asked the president about a CBS News poll released Sunday. “A new poll out today shows Americans wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan, but they disapprove of the way you’ve handled it,” the reporter noted. “The majority of Americans – forgive me, I’m just the messenger – no longer consider you to be competent, focused, or effective at the job.”
“What would you say to those Americans?” the reporter asked.
“Look, I have a basic decision to make. I either withdraw the American people from a 20-year war… I either increase the number of forces we keep there… or I end the war, and I decided to end the war,” Biden replied.
He insisted that the withdrawal process was “going to be hard and painful no matter when it started.”
“It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now,” the president said.