President Joe Biden turned his back on reporters Tuesday when pressed on whether the White House can pledge all Americans will be successfully evacuated from the war-torn nation before U.S. forces leave next week.
“Can you guarantee every American will be out before the troops leave?” shouted one reporter in the background as the president left the lectern without taking a single question on the turmoil in Afghanistan.
Biden walks away as he’s asked if he can guarantee that every American will be evacuated before our troops leave. pic.twitter.com/H53GWhYv2h
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) August 24, 2021
The scene has become routine as the president avoids answering questions over the crisis in Afghanistan, where an undisclosed number of Americans remain poised to be stranded behind enemy lines after the Taliban captured the country as breakneck speed.
Wow Biden didn’t take any questions. Again. pic.twitter.com/9VWzPo4N9N
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) August 23, 2021
This is the image that has come to define President Biden’s leadership during his Afghanistan crisis. Turns his back on America, and refuses to answer questions.
Now he heads back to Delaware for a “long weekend.” pic.twitter.com/aSjWUXFHOe
— Michele Perez Exner (@michelepexner) August 18, 2021
While Biden touted progress on evacuations in the Tuesday press conference, where nearly 71,000 have been flown out of Kabul since Aug. 14, many were evacuated by allies, not American flights, with few being American citizens.
A leaked cable from the State Department first reported by Politico National Security Correspondent Alex Ward shows a vast majority of recent evacuees were foreign nationals as opposed to U.S. citizens. Of the more than 26,500 people evacuated as of Monday afternoon, less than 4,500 were Americans, according to numbers shared by Ward. More than 21,500 were Afghans.
NEW: Leaked State cable with evacuation numbers (as of Aug 23 at 1500 ET):
Total manifested since midnight Kabul AUG 23: 483 AMCITS, 6,425 Afghans natls, 8 3rd country/unknown. Total = 6,916
Total manifested since op began: 4,407 AMCITS, 21,533 Afghans, 642 TCNs. Total = 26,582
— Alex Ward (@alexbward) August 24, 2021
How many Americans remain in Afghanistan remains unclear, and Biden pledged the U.S. will meet its withdrawal date set for Aug. 31, after the Taliban set a red line that it will not accept the American presence after the deadline.
“The sooner we can finish, the better,” Biden said. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”
While the administration claims the passage of American citizens will be secured by a cooperative Taliban to meet the Tuesday deadline next week, the radical Islamist group is blocking airport access in Kabul.
Despite the Taliban’s withdrawal deadline, Biden said he’s instructed the State Department and the Pentagon to construct contingency plans in the event the deadline needs to be adjusted “should that become necessary.”