- President Joe Biden is expected to speak at midday Tuesday from the White House.
- Pakistan official asks world to stay engaged to prevent Afghanistan’s ‘economic collapse.’
- Taliban declare victory over US at Kabul airport just hours after American military departs.
President Joe Biden defended the end of the nation’s longest war in an address to the nation Tuesday.
Biden again promised to bring home any remaining Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave and called the airlift and evacuation process a success, despite criticisms from across the political spectrum.
The military retreated one day and one minute ahead of its Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
After the withdrawal was announced, Biden issued a statement that held firm in its timing rather than having the US push out the deadline, saying the Joint Chiefs and commanders on the ground agreed it was the best course. “Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” the president said.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, based in Fort Bragg, N.C., was the final soldier to leave Afghanistan as U.S. troops boarded a C-17 aircraft in Kabul.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to try to get Americans and Afghans out of the country, and will work with Afghanistan’s neighbors to secure their departure, either over land or by charter flight once the Kabul airport reopens.
Indiana’s Camp Atterbury will temporarily house Afghan evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge, the Indiana National Guard announced Tuesday.
Gov. Eric Holcomb was supportive of the efforts to house refugees who had worked with U.S. service members and diplomats at the military and civilian training post, located 40 miles south of Indianapolis.
“As Hoosiers, we are proud to do our part and provide a temporary home for Afghan evacuees who have supported this nation,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Our federal partners are taking necessary and appropriate steps to establish that there is a smooth process to allow these men, women and children to quickly find their permanent home across the United States. I have faith in the Indiana National Guard’s ability to support this federal mission.”
Camp Atterbury, Fort Pickett, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort Lee in Virginia; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey will provide temporary housing and support to a total of 50,000 Afghans.
According to the release from the Indiana National Guard, active-duty and National Guard service members will provide housing, medical, logistics and transportation when the Afghans arrive.
The date has not yet been set.
The Biden administration is working with allied countries and the private sector to try to get the airport in Kabul reopened – one day after the U.S. military withdrew from the compound and ceded it to the Taliban.
Ned Price, the State Department’s chief spokesman, said U.S. officials are working with Turkey and Qatar in the hopes of restoring commercial service to the airport quickly.
A functioning airport is critical to the Biden administration’s promise to keep evacuating American citizens and Afghan allies, as well for relief organizations to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid.
“We’re not going to get ahead of our partners on this,” Price said. “But we have been very clear that we will continue to do all we can to support the reopening of Kabul’s civilian airport.”
Just hours after the last American military plane departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport, heavily armed Taliban fighters walked through hangars on the military side, passing some of the CH-46 helicopters the State Department used in its evacuations before rendering them unflyable, the AP reported.
In a defiant speech defending the U.S. withdrawal, President Joe Biden said the terrorism threat to the U.S. has “metastasized across the world well beyond Afghanistan.”
“The threat from terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature, but it’s changed, expanded to other countries,” Biden said. “Our strategy has to change too.”
Biden rattled off a list of terror threats, including Al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qaida in Syria and ISIS/s attempt to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
The president said his fundamental obligation was to defend and protect the country against terror threats in 2021 and tomorrow and not those established in 2001, when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan.
“I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan,” he said.
A government watchdog for Afghanistan told House members Tuesday that the collapse of the Afghan government resulted from a “series of mistakes that were made” across several administrations.
The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, also told the Oversight and Reform Committee that the world must “keep a spotlight on the Taliban,” to ensure they uphold the rights of all Afghans, including women, girls and ethnic minorities.
Sopko said the reconstruction mission was always likely to struggle because “we didn’t understand the culture and the country we were operating in, and that is one of the most serious indictments against our 20-year exercise in Afghanistan.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and the head of the subcommittee on national security, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., issued a joint statement that President Joe Biden sought to end the 20-year war, but that the withdrawal “comes with significant risks to our national security and the people of Afghanistan.”
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden issued a stark waring Tuesday to the terrorist group ISIS-K: “We’re not done with you yet.”
Biden delivered his warning during remarks from the White House while defending his administration’s handling of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the end of the U.S.’s 20-year war in that country.
ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for last week’s bombing at the Kabul airport as the U.S. and its allies were scrambling to evacuate people from Afghanistan. Thirteen U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans were killed in the attack.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended his handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, saying Afghan forces did not hold off the Taliban as long as expected.
In remarks form the White House, Biden called the effort to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan an “extraordinary success” and said it was due to “the incredible skill” and “selfless courage” of the U.S military, diplomats and intelligence professionals.
Biden said his administration reached out 19 times since to Americans in Afghanistan with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan. When the evacuation started 17 days ago, the U.S. reached out to Americans in Afghanistan and identified around 5,000 who decided to stay, he said.
Biden said the assumption was that more than 300,00 Afghan national security forces trained and equipped over the past two decades would be a strong adversary in their fight with the Taliban.
But the Afghan forces “did not hold as long as anyone expected,” he said.
‘There is no deadline’: Biden vows to bring home any Americans still in Afghanistan who want to leave
Biden said the U.S. military ended up evacuating more than 5,500 Americans out of Afghanistan and said between 100 and 200 Americans remain.
He said “90%” of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were evacuated and committed to use diplomatic means to ensure any remaining Americans can leave. The Biden administration has said many of the Americans still in Afghanistan have deep roots and family in Afghanistan and that they were undecided whether they wanted to depart
“For those Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them if they want to come out.”
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is disputing claims that it did not evacuate all dogs who worked with the United States during operations in Afghanistan, following viral images and reports to the contrary.
In the closing days of America’s longest war, conservative activists, politicians and animal lovers raised alarms online that the U.S. was not evacuating its service dogs.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon denied that any dogs who’d worked with the U.S. military were left behind in the country, while acknowledging that a series of social media posts about non-military evacuation efforts of Kabul pets caused confusion.
“To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs,'” said Eric Pahon, a spokesperson for the Defense Department.
A new survey from Pew Research Center found 54% of U.S. adults favored President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, while 42% said it was the wrong choice.
But only 26% said the administration has done an excellent or good job handling the situation in Afghanistan, according to the survey, which was conducted before the U.S. exit from Afghanistan was completed. The poll found 29% said the administration has done an only fair job, while 42% rated its handling of Afghanistan poorly.
The public also broadly agreed (69%) that the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan as the 20-year-war drew to a close.
Most of the survey was conducted before last week’s Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport that left 13 U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans dead. Researchers found attitudes didn’t shift much before or after the attack. Pew surveyed 10,348 U.S. adults between Aug. 23-29.
BERLIN — The U.S. military says it has conducted more than 100 flights to bring almost 24,000 vulnerable Afghans to its Ramstein Air Base in Germany since Aug. 20.
The 86th Airlift Wing said Tuesday that about 10,000 evacuees have already departed again for resettlement locations, with some 13,900 still at the base.
A further 2,300 people are expected to be brought to Ramstein in the coming hours and a similar number will depart for onward destinations, it said.
–The Associated Press
PARIS — France says “a few dozen” French nationals remain in Afghanistan, including some who wanted to be evacuated but could not as the last flight left Kabul.
Defense Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean said in a news conference Tuesday that “all efforts are being done” to allow those left behind to get “a safe and orderly evacuation.”
He said “that is the goal of the talks under way within the United Nations framework with the Taliban power.”
In addition, France was not able to evacuate a “few dozen” former Afghan employees of the French army who asked for the protection of the country, he said.
France will do “the maximum” in the coming days and weeks to help them getting out of Afghanistan, Grandjean said.
France’s evacuation flights from Aug. 17 to Aug. 27 have evacuated about 2,600 Afghans at risk, including 110 former employees of the French army and their families.
France withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
–The Associated Press
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted the Biden administration for leaving some Americans behind in Afghanistan following the departure of the last military plane yesterday.
“Right now, we should get every American home,” McCarthy told reporters at news conference Tuesday. “I cannot imagine any individual, that is in a policy making position knowingly … telling the American public two weeks before that they will not leave until every Americans home, but decide they’re going to leave Americans there.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday there are between 100 and 200 Americans left who want to leave. He said the administration was trying to determine an exact number by poring through manifests and calling and texting those on the lists they have.
The challenge is “there are longtime residents of Afghanistan who have American passports and who are trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave,” Blinken said. “Many are dual-citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan who’ve resided there for many years. For many, it’s a painful choice.”
Asked if Biden should resign or be impeached, McCarthy would only say, “I believe there should be accountability for what I, what I see is probably the biggest failure in American government on a military stage in my lifetime. We can never make this mistake again.”
– Ledyard King
The Biden administration needs to help create a “humanitarian corridor” inside Afghanistan so civilians at risk of Taliban reprisals can safely escape the country now that the U.S. military has withdrawn, refugee advocates said on Tuesday.
“Humanitarian corridors are absolutely essential,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First, an advocacy group that has been at the forefront of trying to help evacuate at-risk Afghans.
“Every other option for moving people out of the country” – such as encouraging Afghans to flee via overland routes or helping them get out through covert extractions – will necessarily involve small numbers and great risk, he said in a briefing with reporters Tuesday.
Adam Malaty-Urh, an adviser to the Association of Wartime Allies and an Afghanistan veteran, estimated that as many as 118,000 Afghans eligible for special U.S. visas because of their service with the U.S. military remain in the country. The State Department has said the U.S. evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, but it has not given a precise breakdown of that figure, except to say that 6,000 of those were American citizens.
“The only way to move the kinds of numbers we’re talking about is with humanitarian corridors and flights out (and) border crossings open,” Breen said, “and that’s something that only the United States, through diplomatic leverage, can achieve.”
Breen and others said Afghans outside of Kabul face even greater threats from the Taliban because there’s less media scrutiny and limited international visibility into what’s happening in those places.
Joseph Azam, a board member of the Afghan-American Foundation, said he and other advocates have been inundated with horrific reports from friends and relatives of atrocities occurring outside of Kabul.
“We’ve heard everything from abductions taking place to firsthand accounts of women and girls being abducted into forced marriage, which is effectively rape” Azam said. “We’ve had many, many reports of former government officials, former allies, former employees of international NGOs being kidnapped and beaten … We need to help people who counted on our word and who tried to push forward our values and our ideals.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen
WASHINGTON — The United States says its mission to get Americans out of Afghanistan will continue after Monday’s withdrawal.
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, says it’s just that the evacuation effort “has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission.” He cited “considerable leverage” the U.S. has over the Taliban to get out any remaining Americans — a number that U.S. official have said is under 200.
Sullivan says the U.S. intends to continue sending health, food and other forms of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. He says that other forms of aid, including economic and developmental, would depend on Taliban actions and adherence to publicly stated commitments.
American forces helped evacuate over 120,000 U.S. citizens, foreigners and Afghans after the Taliban regained control of the country, according to the White House. Coalition forces also evacuated their citizens and Afghans. But foreign nations and the U.S. government acknowledged they didn’t evacuate all who wanted to go.
– Associated Press
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate on Tuesday as the upper chamber moved to quickly pass a bill to provide increased temporary assistance to U.S. citizens returning from Afghanistan and other foreign countries.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., asked for unanimous consent to approve the Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Return Americans Act. The bill, which passed the House last week without a roll call vote, heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The bill was approved despite an agreement in the Senate not to consider legislation during the August recess.
The he legislation provides up to $20 million in emergency repatriation assistance for U.S. citizens returning from foreign countries through 2022.
Over the last 18 days of the U.S. withdrawal push, an estimated 6,000 people of the 123,000 civilians evacuated were U.S. citizens, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. Approximately 100 to 200 U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
– Courtney Subramanian, Ledge King and Bart Jansen
Shortly after the final American troops departed from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters donned equipment the U.S. left behind.
Images and video captured by the Los Angeles Times in the hours after the withdrawal displayed a surreal scene of triumph. Taliban forces celebrated their victory dressed in American uniforms and armor, many with night vision goggles and brandishing U.S.-manufactured weapons, originally sent to the country to be used against them.
The militants, in control of Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years, surveyed the leftover equipment and supplies, shouting praises to God and praying on the airport tarmac.
Several photos show Taliban fighters, difficult to distinguish from American troops when wearing U.S. uniforms, standing next to military helicopters and trucks.
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, has said much of the military equipment has been “de-militarized,” with some of it essentially inoperable.
– Matthew Brown
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Tuesday urged the international community to act to prevent an “economic collapse” in neighboring Afghanistan after the takeover of the country by the Taliban and the pullout of U.S. forces.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi says it’s in the interest of peace and stability for the world to remain engaged and not abandon Afghanistan, since more instability and further exodus of Afghans fleeing the Taliban rule were not in the interest of the nation.
He said that “this is a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history. International community must remain engaged, do not let economic collapse take place in Afghanistan.”
Qureshi spoke at a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday, a day after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, marking the end of the 20 years of war next door.
Qureshi said Pakistan facilitated the evacuation of more than 10,000 foreigners from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. He said Pakistan has already been hosting more than 3 million Afghan refugees for the past decades and that his Islamic nation lacks the capacity to absorb more refugees.
– Associated Press
Taliban officials walked across the sole runway at Kabul’s airport in a symbolic gesture of victory just hours after the last U.S. military plane departed, signaling the end of America’s longest war.
“The world should have learned their lesson, and this is the enjoyable moment of victory,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a livestream posted by a militant, according to the Associated Press.
The scene unfolded at Hamid Karzai International Airport where heavily armed Taliban fighters walked through hangars on the military side, passing some of the CH-46 helicopters the State Department used in its evacuations before rendering them unflyable, the AP reported.
– Ledyard King
The U.S. military likely abandoned tens of millions of dollars’ worth of aircraft, armored vehicles and sophisticated defensive systems in the rush to leave the airport in Kabul safely.
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said some of the equipment had been “de-militarized,” essentially rendered inoperable. Troops likely used thermate grenades, which burn at temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy key components of the equipment, according to a Defense department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Some pieces of equipment were likely blown up. Another Defense official also not authorized to speak publicly, acknowledged that a blast heard last week at the airport was related to destroying equipment.
– Tom Vanden Brook