A week later, on July 2, Mr. Biden in an exuberant mood gathered a small group of reporters to celebrate new job numbers that he believed showed his plan for economic recovery was working. But all the questions he received concerned news from Afghanistan that the United States had left Bagram Air Force Base without the Afghans being aware of it.

“It’s a rational setback with our allies,” he insisted, “so there’s nothing unusual about it.”

But when the questions were about Afghanistan, not the economy, he became visibly upset. Recalling Mr. Ghani’s visit, he said, “I think you have the ability to support the government,” although he added that there must be negotiations with the Taliban.

Then, for the first time, he was urged about what the government would do to save Kabul if it were directly attacked. “I want to talk about happy things, man,” he said. He insisted there was a plan.

“We have worked out a capacity beyond the horizon,” he said, which means the government had contingency plans in case things go bad. “But the Afghans have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have, and we’re helping them maintain it,” he said. But by then most of the US contractors who had helped keep the Afghan planes flying had withdrawn from Bagram along with the troops. Military and intelligence officials admit they were concerned the Afghans would not be able to stay in the air.

On July 8, almost all American forces had left Afghanistan when the Taliban continued their deployment across the country. In a White House speech that day defending his decision to exit, Mr Biden was in a fix when he tried to express his skepticism about the capabilities of the Afghan armed forces while being careful not to undermine their government . He then reacted angrily to a reporter’s comparison with Vietnam, insisting that “there will be no circumstance in which Afghan people are lifted off the roof of a US embassy. It is not at all comparable. “

Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

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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.

But five days later, nearly two dozen American diplomats, all in the Kabul embassy, ​​sent a memo directly to Mr. Blinken via the State Department’s “Dissent” channel. First reported in the Wall Street Journal, the Telegram called for Afghan evacuation flights to start in two weeks and that administration speed up to register them for visas.

The next day, in an already ongoing move, the White House named an intensified effort “Operation Allies Refuge”.