U.S. military helicopters flew into Taliban-held Kabul on Friday to scoop up would-be evacuation, American officials confirmed to The Associated Press, as President Joe Biden pledged firmly to bring all Americans home from Afghanistan — and Afghans who aided the war effort, too.
But Biden’s promises, and the limited U.S. helicopter sorties beyond the concrete barriers ringing the Kabul airport, came as thousands more Americans and others seeking to escape the Taliban struggled to get past crushing crowds, Taliban airport checkpoints and sometimes-insurmountable U.S. bureaucracy.
“We will get you home,” Biden promised Americans who were still in Afghanistan days after the Taliban retook control of Kabul, ending a two-decade war.
His comments, delivered at the White House, were intended to project purpose and stability at the conclusion of a week during which images from Afghanistan more often suggested chaos, especially at the airport.
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His commitment to find a way out for Afghan allies vulnerable to Taliban attacks amounted to a potentially vast expansion of Washington’s promises, given the tens of thousands of Afghan translators and other helpers, and their close family members, seeking evacuation.
“We’re making the same commitment” to Afghan wartime helpers as to U.S. citizens, Biden said, offering the prospect of assistance to Afghans who largely have been fighting individual battles to get the documents and passage into the airport that they need to leave. He called the Afghan allies “equally important” in the evacuations.
Biden is facing continuing criticism as videos and news reports depict pandemonium and occasional violence outside the airport.
“I made the decision” on the timing of the U.S. withdrawal, he said, his tone firm as he declared that it was going to lead to difficult scenes, no matter when. Former President Donald Trump had set it for May in negotiations with the Taliban, but Biden extended it.