WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says even with the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, he sees a greater threat from outposts of al-Qaida and its affiliated groups in other countries, and that it was no longer “rational” to continue to focus U.S. military power there.
“We should be focusing on where the threat is the greatest,” Biden said in an interview that aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.
“And the idea we can continue to spend a trillion dollars, and have tens of thousands of American forces in Afghanistan, when we have North Africa and Western Africa — the idea we can do that and ignore those looming problems, growing problems, is not rational.”
Biden has said repeatedly that America will not send significantly more forces to fight in Afghanistan. The U.S. has not had tens of thousands there for several years and had 2,500 to 3,000 deployed there when Biden took office.
Biden named Syria and East Africa as places where the Islamic State group poses a “significantly greater threat” than in Afghanistan and said that ISIS has “metastasized.” He said while the U.S. doesn’t have a sizable military presence in a place like Syria, it does have an “over the horizon capability to take them out.”
The comments come as the Biden administration has faced sharp criticism for the timing and direction of the Afghanistan withdrawal, after the Taliban came to power more quickly than administration officials predicted. The swift takeover by the Taliban prompted scenes of chaos and violence as thousands of Afghans and Americans sought to flee the country.
Biden also pushed back against concerns about the treatment of women and girls in the country, arguing that it’s “not rational” to try to protect women’s rights around the globe through military force. Instead, it should be done through “diplomatic and international pressure” on human rights abusers to change their behavior.
Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban took full control of the nation last weekend. Biden said during the same interview that he’s committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated, even if that means maintaining a military presence beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal.
Pressed repeatedly on how the administration would help Americans left in the nation after Aug. 31, Biden said, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out.”
Here is more of that ABC interview that was shown on Good Morning America.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier Wednesday that the U.S. military does not have the forces and firepower in Afghanistan to expand its current mission from securing the Kabul airport to collecting Americans and at-risk Afghans elsewhere in the capital and escorting them for evacuation.
The question of whether those seeking to leave the country before Biden’s deadline should be rescued and brought to the airport has arisen amid reports that Taliban checkpoints have stopped some designated evacuees.
“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said. “And where do you take that? How far do you extend into Kabul, and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that?”
Austin, a retired four-star Army general who commanded forces in Afghanistan, spoke at his first Pentagon news conference since the Taliban swept to power in Kabul on Sunday.
He said the State Department was sending more consular affairs officers to speed up the processing of evacuees.
“We’re not close to where we want to be” in terms of the pace of the airlift, Austin said.
He said he was mainly focused on the airport, which faced “a number of threats” that must be monitored.
“We cannot afford to either not defend that airfield or not have an airfield that’s secure, where we have hundreds or thousands of civilians that can access the airfield,” he said, adding that talks with the Taliban were continuing to ensure safe passage for those evacuating.
Austin said there were about 4,500 U.S. troops at the airport, maintaining security to enable the State Department-run evacuation operation that has been marked by degrees of chaos and confusion.
Biden, however, told ABC that there wasn’t anything his administration could have done to avoid such chaos.
“The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he said.
Senior U.S. military officers were talking to Taliban commanders in Kabul about checkpoints and curfews that have limited the number of Americans and Afghans able to enter the airport.
John Kirby, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said that over 24 hours about 2,000 people, including 325 American citizens, had left aboard 18 flights by U.S. Air Force C-17 transport planes. The number of departing Air Force flights was likely to be similar in the coming 24 hours, Kirby said, although he said he could not estimate how many people they would carry.
Nearly 6,000 people had been evacuated by the U.S. military since Saturday, a White House official said Wednesday night.
Kriby said the administration was considering its options for dealing with a separate but related problem — the abandonment by Afghan security forces of an array of military equipment, weapons and aircraft that have fallen into the hands of the Taliban or other militant groups.
“We don’t, obviously, want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interests or the interests of the Afghan people and increase violence and insecurity inside Afghanistan,” Kirby said. “There are numerous policy choices that can be made, up to and including destruction.” He said those decisions had not yet been made.
Kirby said several hundred more U.S. troops were expected to arrive at the airport by Thursday.
An Air Force unit arrived overnight that specializes in rapidly setting up and maintaining airfield operations, Kirby said. And he said Marines trained in evacuation support have continued to arrive and will assist in getting civilians onto flights.
The top congressional Republicans, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell, asked Biden on Wednesday for a classified briefing with the “gang of eight” — the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence committees as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, McCarthy and McConnell.
McCarthy and McConnell said they want a briefing on the number of Americans still in Afghanistan and the plans to evacuate those outside of Kabul. Their letter prompted Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill to tweet that she had already requested such a meeting. He also said House members will receive an unclassified telephone briefing Friday and an in-person briefing Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Darlene Superville, Matthew Lee, Eric Tucker, Alexandra Jaffe and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.
the war on america is more important to joe bidenoff.
Yep he’s right. the greater threat is Kamela for sure or is that Nan Peloski, kgb agent dujour.
TO THEM, yes it IS a war on AMERICANS!
“We should be focusing on where the threat is the greatest,” Biden said in an interview that aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Namely him and his administration.
“He (Biden) said while the U.S. doesn’t have a sizable military presence in a place like Syria, it does have an “over the horizon capability to take them out.” Then why, in God’s name, after 20 years is the Taliban and al Qaeda still in Afghanistan? We either couldn’t, or didn’t, take them out in that period of time while we were there.
“Biden, however, told ABC that there wasn’t anything his administration could have done to avoid such chaos.
“The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he said. Because you and your equally incompetent military commanders don’t know what the hell you are doing.
“Kirby said the administration was considering its options for dealing with a separate but related problem — the abandonment by Afghan security forces of an array of military equipment, weapons and aircraft that have fallen into the hands of the Taliban or other militant groups. That should have been of utmost importance but, again, we’re talking billions of dollars worth of material here—we know how much turmoil that causes the Democrat Party.
A total comedy of errors—just not a funny comedy.
ALL of our equipment should have been rendered useless. For example, start the engine then drain the oil and let the engine be permanently ruined. Put rifles in a pothole and run a humvey over them; bending the barrels. It is much easier to destroy than to build something.
But, of course, our military leadership is focused on the LGBTQ+ agenda instead. “Military intelligence” is thus a sick joke.
WE should have Boobytrapped EVERY PIECE Of gear we left behind.. AND IF we couldn’t boobytrap them, WE SHOULD HAVE Droppd MOABS ON WHERE they were being stored.
Send the armed drones to drop hell on them.
I wonder. ALL THOSE helos and drones we LEFT BEHIND, how swiftly will the taliban SELL THEM TO RUSSIA OR CHINA!
The disaster of a cesspool of toxic waste, Joe Biden, his Administration and the Democrat communists. Elitist Academics that are brain dead aka airheads.
In Biden’s mind?? That sucker shut down years ago.
Btw, I like the picture. Can we have it all the time?
I WAS THINKING THE SAME THING WHEN i READ THIS ARTICLE. “IN BIDEN’S MIND,” WHAT MIND?!!!
“He said while the U.S. doesn’t have a sizable military presence in a place like Syria, it does have an “over the horizon capability to take them out.” ”
Can you say “unforeseen” collateral damage?
I can’t recall any mentions of Africa by this administration before now. I never knew they had a white supremacist problem there as well…or is there a problem posed by some other socio-political group which he isn’t naming?
“In Biden’s mind”…is space where his brain once occupied but is now filled by a host of demons that now run his life.
I don’t see why anyone would criticize Joe’s priorities. You can talk about multi trillion dollar debts, Communist China’s threats, hordes of illegal immigrants and potential jihadists pouring in from the southern border, increased rioting in the streets with less police protection, rampant inflation, loss of constitutional freedoms, re-dependence on foreign oil, etc. But all these problems pale in the shadow of the threat of White Supremacy”. Joe has pointed out repeatedly this is the number one threat to the country. With all the rioting, property damage and death caused by white supremacists in Portland, Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere how could we question Joe’s judgement?
Wonder how long it will take China to make their move on Taiwan, given this picture of ineptitude inhabiting the White House, Congress, Foggy Bottom, and Pentagon, our 4-cornered District of Corruption?
From what Tucker said the other night, CHINA ALREADY warned Taiwan “SEE, this is why you NEED us, as America will NOT HAVE Your back!”
Biden and the puppetmasters who pull his strings and put words into his mouth, are a much greater threat than the Taliban ever was. They look to gain the trust of Americans and when they gain that trust, they slit the thoats of their unsuspecting victims, then slither away like the snakes that they are!
>> “The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he said. <<
Le'see … Get the civilians out, then remove the military … No no, first remove the troops … No no …
Eeney, meeny, miney moe …
Maybe they were playing Tic-tac-toe..
The first logical step would have to be the building of a proper transportation system, for extraction purposes, overseen by an indigenous administrative body. An election is the only fair way to fill those posts…..
I guess we need to go back and try this again with improved optics. We even forgot the Mission Accomplished banner!!
“What I meant to say was you wont be seeing HUEY’s above the embassy in Cobbler…Cobble…Cable….Kabul.
NOW do I get ice cream?”
THE first logical step would have been to REMOVE ALL MILITARY ASSETS, before we removed the TROOPS…
Maybe Prez Joe isn’t as ineffective as many think. After all, hasn’t he just sent China and Russia exactly the signal they have been waiting for? Can anyone say “Thailand”?
And, by the way, Hunter’s running low on walkin’ around money.
Don’t you mean TAIWAN and the REST of the Ukraine!
Yes, I did mean Taiwan. Corrected the typo somewhere in here.