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President Biden on Saturday again defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, arguing that the vast majority of Americans wanted to get out — and asking “How else could you get out?”
Biden was speaking to reporters in Shanksville, Pa., on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and was asked about whether the withdrawal of the U.S. forces at the end of August marks a new phase for the country.
“If you had told anybody that we were going to spend $300 million a day for 20 years to try to unite the country after we got [Usama] bin Laden, after al Qaeda was wiped out there,” he said. “Can al Qaeda come back? Yeh but guess what? It’s already back in other places.”
“What’s the strategy? Every place where al Qaeda is, we’re going to invade and have troops there? Come on,” he said.
Biden has been heavily criticized for his handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and has seen a sharp drop in poll numbers. Scenes of chaos at the Kabul airport, as well as difficulties in evacuating Americans, contributed to that criticism – particularly among Republicans.
On Friday, former President Donald Trump took aim at Biden in an interview with Fox News, saying of the withdrawal: “There has never been anything like this. It looks like we fled, and it is all because we have an incompetent person as the leader of our country.”
On Saturday, Biden suggested Americans were supportive of getting out of Afghanistan, where the U.S. invaded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to neutralize al Qaeda and Bin Laden, and cited polling that 70% of Americans thought it was time to leave.
“But the flip of it is they didn’t like the way we got out, but it’s hard to explain to anybody, how else could you get out?” he asked.
“For example, if we were in Tajikistan, we pulled up a C-130 and said, ‘we’re going to let you know anybody who was involved with being sympathetic to us to get in the plane,’ you’d have people hanging in the wheel well,” he added. “Come on.”
The U.S. is currently evacuating what it estimates will be 95,000 Afghan evacuees to the U.S. over the next year via U.S. military airbases in the region and in Europe, that includes Special Immigration Visa (SIV) applicants as well as other Afghans involved in the U.S operation and also Afghans deemed “at risk.”
Those flights were temporarily halted on Friday after multiple cases of measles were identified among arrivals in the U.S.
During the evacuation period, in which Kabul airport was overwhelmed with those seeking to flee Afghanistan, there were images of Afghans clinging to wheels of planes departing the country. Separately, the the United States Air Force said that human remains were found in the wheel well of one C-17 aircraft that departed from Kabul.