WASHINGTON D.C.: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned the Daesh-affiliated IS-K militants, who killed 13 American troops in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport, that they face more retribution from Washington.
“We all maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries,” Biden said Tuesday.
“And to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet,” he said, using another acronym for the Afghan offshoot of Daesh.
Biden defended his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, including the frantic final evacuation from Kabul airport.
In remarks at the White House, Biden said the US government had reached out 19 times since March — prior to his public announcement that he was going to end the US war — to encourage all American citizens in Afghanistan to leave. He acknowledged that 100 to 200 were unable to get out when the airlift ended Monday.
Biden asserted that his administration was ready when the US-backed government in Kabul collapsed in mid-August and the Taliban took over.
But the airlift that began Aug. 14 has been heavily criticized by many as initially unorganized and chaotic.
Biden said that 5,500 Americans eventually got out, and that “arrangements” will be made to get the remaining Americans out if they so choose.
Biden criticized the ousted Afghan government’s inability to fight back against swift Taliban advances and highlighted the role played by former US president Donald Trump.
The deal brokered by Trump authorized “the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control,” Biden said.
“By the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country,” he said.
Many lawmakers had called on Biden to extend the Aug. 31 deadline to allow more Americans and Afghans to escape, but Biden said it was “not an arbitrary deadline,” but one “designed to save lives.”
“I take responsibility for the decision. Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn’t this have been done in a more orderly manner. I respectfully disagree,” said Biden.
Even if evacuations had begun in June or July, he said, “there still would have been a rush to the airport” by people wanting to leave.
The departure of the last US troops caps two decades of military involvement that Biden was determined to end.
Biden said more troops would have had to go to Afghanistan and into harm’s way if the exit had not occurred.
Less than 40% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, and three quarters wanted US forces to remain in the country until all American civilians could get out, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.
* With AP, AFP and Reuters