Afghanistan crisis: U.S. President Joe Biden has said that the U.S. military may have exceeded its withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan as armed Taliban fighters expelled refugees from reaching Kabul airport.
Mr. Biden wants to send US troops out by the end of this month, but 15,000 U.S. citizens are trapped in the country.
The U.S. president told ABC News that there must be chaos in Kabul.
Foreign governments are increasing the number of Western nationals and Afghan airlifts they have worked with.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops are under temporary control at Karzai International Airport in the country’s capital, but Taliban fighters and checkpoints rang the perimeter.
U.S. nationals told the GTM’s US partner CBS News that they were unable to enter the airport for scheduled evacuation flights.
Earlier in the day, at a news conference on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asked if the US military had the capability to protect single Americans.
“We don’t have the capacity to go out and gather a large number of people,” he replied.
Mr. Biden, a Democrat, told ABC that the United States was due to withdraw from all of Afghanistan by August 31, although the deadline had passed.
“If there are American citizens left, we’ll be there to bring them all out,” he said.
He said the U.S. president needed to evacuate 10,000 to 15,000 Americans, as well as 50,000 to 65,000 Afghans who were former translators to the American military.
The Pentagon told reporters that 5,000 people had already been evacuated from Kabul and that they aimed to expand the airlift to 9,000 a day. A Western official told the Reuters news agency that the evacuees were diplomats, security personnel, aid workers and Afghans.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Washington told the Taliban that it wanted to allow all American citizens, third-country citizens, and Afghans to be safe and free from harassment.
When asked by ABC if he would admit any mistakes in the chaotic withdrawal, Mr Biden said: “No.”
He said: “There is a way out somehow without confusion. I do not know how it happens.”
Mr. Biden was also asked about images that went viral this week as Afghans descended from a U.S. military plane as altitude rose over Kabul.
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The U.S. president turned defensive: “It was four days ago, five days ago!”
Mr. Biden also reiterated his assessment last month that the Taliban’s takeover of the country was “extremely rare”.
He said intelligence reports indicated that such a scenario would be high by the end of this year.
Interviewer George Stefanopoulos said, “You did not set a timeline when you said ‘very rare.’
“Yes,” Mr. Biden replied, assuring Americans back in April that the US withdrawal would be safe and orderly.
In an interview on Wednesday, the US president blamed the Afghan government and its military for the country being lightly occupied by the Taliban.
Intelligence sources tell the BBC that Mr. Biden is well aware of the risks of his withdrawal, but he is adamant in his decision to come out this year.
Eventually, he “works as his own lead analyst,” said Paul Pillar, now a former CIA officer at Georgetown University.
“The Taliban will eventually win,” Mr. Pillar said. “But speed or speed, or when anything is going to happen, must be unpredictable.”
“Is this an intelligence failure? My guess may not be,” he added.
On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund cut off access to $ 440m (£ 320m) in Afghanistan’s currency reserves – a move by the US Treasury to prevent funds from falling into the hands of the Taliban.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan after Taliban forces entered Kabul on Sunday, said he was only following the advice of government officials.
In a video posted on Facebook, Mr Ghani – currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates – denied Russia’s allegations that he escaped in a helicopter full of cash.
At least one anti-Taliban protester was killed Wednesday in Jalalabad, about 150 kilometers east of Kabul.
Taliban fighters attacked protesters trying to lower the militant group flag and replaced it with the Afghan national tricolor.