In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired Wednesday night, President Joe Biden said he would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan as long as needed to evacuate all Americans, even past the August 31st deadline he set for the end of the U.S. military mission in the country.
During the interview, Stephanopoulos noted between 11,000 and 15,000 Americans are believed to still be in Afghanistan. Stephanopoulos asked, “Are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?”
“Yes,” Biden replied.
Stephanopoulos asked if Biden would also try to evacuate Afghan allies who assisted the U.S. through the war in Afghanistan.
“The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone that should come out,” Biden said. “And that’s the objective. That’s what we’re doing now, that’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there.”
Stephanopoulos asked if Americans can expect U.S. troops might stay in Afghanistan beyond August 31.
“No. Americans should understand that we’re gonna try to get it done before August 31st,” Biden said.
“But if we don’t, the troops will stay,” Stephanopoulos said.
“If — if we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left,” Biden said. “And if you’re American force — if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”
During the interview, Stephanopoulos also asked Biden about his handling of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in the lead-up to the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
“I think a lot of Americans, and even a lot of veterans who served in Afghanistan agree with you on the big, strategic picture. They believe we had to get out,” Stephanopoulos said. “But I wonder how you respond to an Army Special Forces officer, Javier McKay. He did seven tours. He was shot twice. He agrees with you. He says, ‘We have to cut our losses in Afghanistan,’ but he adds, ‘I just wish we could’ve left with honor.'”
Biden responded, “That’s like asking my deceased son Beau, who spent six months in Kosovo and a year in Iraq as a Navy captain and then major– I mean, as an Army major. And, you know, I’m sure he had regrets coming out of Afganistan– I mean, out of Iraq. He had regrets to what’s– how– how it’s going. But the idea– what’s the alternative? The alternative is why are we staying in Afghanistan? Why are we there? Don’t you think that the one– you know who’s most disappointed in us getting out? Russia and China. They’d love us to continue to have to . . .”
“So you don’t think this could’ve been handled, this exit could’ve been handled better in any way? No mistakes?” Stephanopoulos interjected.
“No,” Biden replied. “I don’t think it could’ve been handled in a way that there– we– we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look, but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened.”
Members of Congress are already calling on the Biden administration to provide briefings and testify about their handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.