In his remarks on Friday, President Biden promised to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan and defended his administration from criticism of the withdrawal.
But in the process, he made several misleading or false claims about the withdrawal and evacuation that went chaotic as Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies attempted to flee through the airport in Kabul.
Here’s a factual check of what the president said.
What Mr Biden said
“I have seen no doubt about our credibility from our allies around the world.”
This is misleading. While the leaders of the United States allied countries are reluctant to publicly criticize the withdrawal, some members of their governments have not minced words when they question American leadership and credibility.
In Germany, the chairman of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee described the withdrawal as “a serious and far-reaching misjudgment by the current government” and said it had “fundamentally damaged the political and moral credibility of the West”. Armin Laschet, the chairman of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Conservative Party and a candidate for her successor, called it the “greatest debacle” NATO has ever experienced. According to German media reports, Ms. Merkel also criticized it privately.
In the UK, the withdrawal has cast doubt on the United States’ reliability as an ally among some officials. Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, described it as the “greatest foreign policy disaster” since the Suez Crisis of 1956, we are defending our interests. “
Latvia’s Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said the withdrawal had caused “chaos” and showed that the West was “weaker worldwide”.
What Mr Biden said
“What is our current interest in Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda is gone? We made a specific trip to Afghanistan to get rid of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and also to get Osama bin Laden, and we did. “
Not correct. Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has certainly diminished since the invasion of the United States, but Mr Biden is wrong in saying the terrorist group is no longer in the country.
A UN Security Council report published in June estimates that al-Qaeda is still present in at least 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The Defense Ministry’s inspector general said in a report released on Wednesday that “the Taliban are maintaining their relations with al-Qaeda and providing a safe haven for the terrorist group in Afghanistan.”
Aug 20, 2021, 6:21 p.m. ET
After Mr Biden spoke, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby confirmed at a press conference that al-Qaeda was present in Afghanistan.
What Mr Biden said
“We have no indication that they – in Kabul – could not get through the airport. We made an agreement with the Taliban. So far they have let her through. It’s in their best interest that they get through. So we are not aware of any circumstance in which American citizens with an American passport try to get to the airport. “
This is misleading. Reports from Afghanistan contradict this statement, and other government officials have been more cautious in describing the conditions for American citizens traveling to the airport.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Map 1 of 5
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who for years have been on the run, in hiding, in prison and dodged American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to rule, including whether they will be as tolerant as they say they are.
What is happening to the women of Afghanistan? When the Taliban was last in power, they banned women and girls from most jobs or from going to school. Afghan women have gained a lot since the Taliban was overthrown, but now they fear that they are losing ground. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are indications that they have begun to reintroduce the old order in at least some areas.
The US embassy in Kabul on Wednesday sent a security alert warning American citizens, legal residents and their families that the “United States government cannot provide a safe passage to Hamid Karzai International Airport.”
When asked about Mr. Biden’s allegation that no Americans were denied access to the airport, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a news conference Friday that the department received “only a small number of reports from American citizens, that their access has been hindered in any way, that they have encountered any kind of hardship or resistance in order to get to the airport. “
Pentagon spokesman Mr Kirby also said at the press conference that he was aware of “sporadic reports of some Americans unable to pass the checkpoints” but that they “by and large” got through could.
Politico reported that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told Congress on Friday that some Americans who tried to leave Afghanistan had been harassed and beaten by Taliban fighters.
An unnamed American residing in Afghanistan told ABC News that he had seen people with US passports banned from passing through Taliban checkpoints. Clarissa Ward, a CNN reporter in Kabul, said after Mr Biden’s remarks that she was having trouble getting to the airport.
“The work of getting to this airport is like a Rubik’s Cube,” Ms. Ward said on CNN Friday. “Anyone who says any American can come in here is – yes, I mean, technically it is possible. But it’s extremely difficult and it’s dangerous. “