Kabul: US President Joe Biden defended the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on Monday, even in the face of the Taliban’s stunning victory, which caused panic in Kabul. Thousands of people besieged the airport and tried desperately to escape.
In his speech at the White House — which was his first public appearance since Islamic rebels took control of the country in amazing ways last weekend — he acknowledged that the Taliban is progressing faster than expected.
He did not shy away from criticizing the Western-backed government that was overthrown in Kabul, saying that the U.S. military could not defend a country whose leaders “give up and flee”, as did President Ashraf Ghani.
“We gave them every opportunity to decide their own future. We cannot provide them with the will to fight for that future,” Biden said, adding that in 20 years, he can no longer ask American soldiers to risk their lives in this country. Life is in danger.
“Our mission in Afghanistan should never be nation-building.”
The Taliban occupied Kabul and many other cities with little bloodshed—but in the capital, panic and fear overwhelmed residents, some of whom feared a repetition of the brutal Islamic rule of the rebels from 1996 to 2001.
At the airport, crazy Afghans tried to board the few flights available throughout the day, and then the US military-sent to protect the facility-was forced to temporarily close military and civilian operations due to the noisy crowd.
“We are afraid of living in this city,” a 25-year-old former soldier told AFP among the crowd on the tarmac.
“I serve in the army, and the Taliban will definitely target me.”
The United States, shocked by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, has dispatched 6,000 soldiers to ensure the safe evacuation of embassy staff and Afghans in translators or other support roles.
Other governments including France, Germany and Australia have also organized charter flights.
Dramatic footage posted on social media on Monday showed hundreds of men running alongside a U.S. Air Force plane as it rolled down the runway, some of them clinging to the side of the plane.
In other videos, civilians crazily climbed an already overcrowded and curvy highway.
A photo released by the U.S. media showed that a U.S. military transport plane allegedly carrying approximately 640 Afghans was crowded with people-some of them climbed a half-open ramp at the last minute and were allowed to board the plane .
An American general said that the airport reopened early on Tuesday morning, adding that American personnel are now in charge of air traffic control.