The scale of the tragedy itself – killing at least 13 U.S. officials and at least 60 Afghans – has renewed criticism from lawmakers and allies for the hasty withdrawal of Americans and the failure to anticipate the Afghan government’s rapid surrender to the Taliban.
The attacks also nullified the president’s claims, repeated from the time he took office, that he would rule foreign policy with a firm hand. And scenes of chaos caused by a couple of suicide bombers, attempts to evacuate more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan have been turned into a story of humanitarian catastrophe.
In a grim address to the nation on Thursday evening, Mr Biden said he would take responsibility for “everything that had happened recently” in Afghanistan, but would not abandon his plans until 31 August. to withdraw American forces.
He also blamed the Islamic State branch for the deadly attacks, stressing that he would relentlessly persecute those responsible.
“Those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America evil, know – we will not forgive and forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.
It was a speech the president avoided for a long time, but which, as he and his advisers knew, was ultimately inevitable.
The bloody attack in Kabul – which injured at least 18 other members of the American service and killed a large number of Afghans trying to flee their homeland – soon overshadowed US progress in evicting people. From August 14. about 5,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies were evacuated.
Mr Biden will now have to find a way to continue the difficult task he has been carrying out ever since Taliban invaded Kabul: to carry out the evacuation of Americans trapped in the country, knowing that every minute on the ground poses an increasing danger to members of the U.S. service.
U.S. Central Command Commander General Kenneth McKenzie said on Thursday that terrorist attacks were expected and more are expected in the coming days.
However, evacuation efforts continue – buses with evacuees arrived at Kabul airport just hours after the attacks.
“Here’s what you need to know: these ISIS terrorists are a disaster,” Biden said. – We will save the Americans, we will save our allies in Afghanistan and our mission will continue. America will not be intimidated. “
For the president, who highlighted his decades of experience in foreign policy during the election campaign and who, as soon as he took office, sent a message to the world: “America is returning,” the scenes of chaos in recent days have been devastating.
Administration officials hoped that a quick evacuation effort, coupled with the end of America’s longest war, would push Afghanistan out of voter consciousness in the coming months and years.
Polls show the withdrawal was popular, but images of Kabul over the past decade have shocked even the president’s allies.
“In Deep Despair”
And they handed Mr Biden’s political enemies a powerful weapon.
Republicans are rushing to seize this moment to overthrow Biden’s two-decade failure in Afghanistan, and Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee have already called for his resignation.
But the concern was evident even among Democrats: Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat who loyally supported Biden’s legislative agenda, said in a statement that the United States was in “deep despair.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, has called on Congress to pass a law banning the withdrawal of troops until all Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan. About two-thirds of the approximately 1,000 Americans believed to remain in Afghanistan want to leave, according to U.S. officials.
Speaking in the White House, Biden took a defensive stance, arguing that his troop withdrawal plan was right, and stressed that former President Donald Trump, who shook hands with the Taliban over his withdrawal last year, had no choice.
According to Biden, if he had rejected the agreement reached by the Trump administration, the only real option left for him would be to “draw even more troops” into Afghanistan, which he opposed while still serving as Vice President of Barack Obama.
“I never thought we should sacrifice the lives of Americans to try to build a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never been united in its entire history,” Biden said.
After Thursday’s massacre, it became clear that Mr Biden’s remarks in recent days were not in vain. Addressing the nation from the White House on Tuesday, the president stressed the “acute and growing risk.”
The same was echoed in White House reports to Allies on Capitol Hill and in a security warning issued by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday urging Americans to avoid the area surrounding the airport and wait for specific instructions.
The White House saw the president’s serious warnings as confirmation that he did not intend to resign on 31 August. deadline, despite some parties requesting an extension of the operation.
Further efforts to evacuate the Americans “will undoubtedly require even more resources and, frankly, great courage for those American troops who intend to implement them,” Army General Mark Kimmitt, a former deputy secretary of defense for Middle East politics, told Bloomberg TV in an interview. under President George W. Bush.
But Biden argues that the U.S. has a moral obligation to continue the operation.
“I think what America says is important,” the president stressed.
The complexity of the situation in Kabul – and its heightened anxiety and uncertainty – was evident throughout the day: White House aides rejected at the last minute Mr Biden’s plans to meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benny in the Oval Office and later hold a virtual meeting with governors on resettling Afghan evacuees.
Mr Bennett will visit the White House on Friday.
Even before the loss of lives, chaotic scenes in Kabul had a negative impact on Biden’s ratings. The president slipped for the first time in a RealClearPolitics public poll – 49 percent. Americans disagree with Biden’s work, and 47 percent. supports it.
Prior to the attacks, Biden’s allies did not lose hope that the situation could be politically saved.
Earlier this week, the White House welcomed the evacuation efforts, which exceeded expectations expressed by journalists and national security experts. Former Biden campaign assistants and Obama administration officials have accused journalists of overestimating the circumstances in Kabul.
That hope dwindled on Thursday when blood was shed, and Mr Biden’s political opponents did not miss the opportunity. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said the attacks only confirmed that “the way the withdrawal is going to have very real and devastating consequences”.
South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem, who is widely believed to be preparing to run for office in 2024. in a presidential election, issued a statement accusing the White House of bloody attacks.
“As we get more information over the next 24 hours, one thing will be clear: these attacks were due to the Biden administration’s unforgivable failure to secure a situation before the troops were withdrawn,” Noem said. “Our response will define the governance of the Biden-Harris administration for many years to come.”
However, repeatedly asked whether he should not reconsider his resignation, Mr Biden replied that he had made the right decision.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end this 20-year war,” he said.