A week later, on July 2, an exuberantly moody Mr Biden gathered a small group of reporters to celebrate new jobs numbers which he said showed his economic stimulus package was working. But all of the questions he received were about news from Afghanistan that the United States had abandoned Bagram Air Base, with little or no notice to the Afghans.
“It’s a rational withdrawal with our allies,” he insisted, “so there is nothing unusual about it.”
But as questions persisted, about Afghanistan rather than the economy, he became visibly annoyed. He recalled Mr. Ghani’s visit and said, “I think they have the capacity to support the government,” while adding that there should be negotiations with the Taliban.
Then, for the first time, he was asked what the administration would do to save Kabul if it was directly attacked. “I wanna talk about happy things, man,” he said. He insisted there was a plan.
“We have developed a capability on the horizon,” he said, meaning the administration had contingency plans should things go wrong. “But the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have, which we are helping them to maintain,” he said. But by that time, most of the American contractors who helped keep the Afghan planes in flight had been withdrawn from Bagram with the troops. Military and intelligence officials admit they feared the Afghans could not stay in the air.
By July 8, almost all US forces were out of Afghanistan as the Taliban continued their push through the country. In a speech that day by the White House defending his decision to leave, Mr Biden was deadlocked in trying to express his skepticism about the capabilities of the Afghan forces while being careful not to undermine their government. Subsequently, he angrily responded to a journalist’s comparison with Vietnam by insisting that “there will be no circumstance where you will see people being lifted off the roof of a US embassy. United from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as leaders.
But five days later, nearly two dozen American diplomats, all at the Kabul embassy, sent a note directly to Mr. Blinken through the State Department’s “dissent” channel. The cable, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, urged evacuation flights for Afghans to begin in two weeks and the administration to move faster to register them for visas.
The next day, in a move already underway, the White House named an intensified effort “Operation Allied Refuge”.