President Joe Biden promised to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the last Americans are out. He failed.
Then, during his speech on Tuesday, he omitted any mention of his broken promise. Instead, he offered the mealy-mouthed assurance that it’s never too late for U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan — even with the last U.S. soldiers gone.
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“There is no deadline,” Biden said Tuesday.
However, the U.S. has withdrawn all its military forces. So the U.S. can no longer use military muscle to convince the Taliban extremists that Americans should be given safe passage out of the country.
The U.S. can now only use diplomatic persuasion to reach the Taliban, which has been fighting the U.S. for 20 years.
“The bottom line: 90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” Biden said during remarks from the White House. “For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline.”
“We remain committed to get them out, if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.”
For the record, Biden previously vowed that he would evacuate 100 percent of Americans before withdrawing forces.
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Biden also suggested on Tuesday, without evidence, that many of the remaining Americans are dual nationals who may be undecided about leaving. He contended 100 to 200 Americans are still there and have “some intention to leave.” He added, “Most of those who remain are dual citizens, longtime residents, but earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke after Biden’s address. According to Psaki, Biden now is saying that, if an American decides in two weeks to leave Afghanistan, “we will get you out.”
However, those comments are oversimplifications. Biden is misunderstanding the desperation of some Americans trapped in Afghanistan.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said Monday that Americans tried to get to the Kabul airport for the final evacuations but couldn’t.
No American civilians were on the last five jets to leave.
McKenzie said, “We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out.”
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“That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit, although we continue the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute,” McKenzie continued. “But none of them made it to the airport, and were able to be — and were able to be accommodated.”
Biden spoke to ABC News on Aug. 19, and he vowed that the U.S. would not leave any Americans stranded.
“Americans understand we’re going to try and get it done before Aug. 31,” Biden said then. “If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time, who’s left.”
And if there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”
The last U.S. planes took off from the airport Monday night, Aug. 30, one minute before midnight in Kabul.
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U.S. officials estimated up to 200 Americans were stranded, along with unknown numbers of Afghan allies and others who were trying frantically to leave.
By Monday night, more than 100,000 people, mostly Afghans, had been flown to safety in the multinational evacuations.
Now those evacuations have become a matter of diplomacy.
U.S. officials said diplomats are in talks with neighboring countries and others to try to arrange non-U.S.-military evacuations for those remaining.
Among the options, if the diplomacy works, are potential charter flights from the airport when it re-opens and overland routes.
Still, if Biden had kept his promise, then no one would need a charter flight.
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The Associated Press and The Horn editorial team contributed to this article.