US President Joe Biden and his administration fought Sunday to project order amid a race by American and other foreign personnel to evacuate Afghanistan as Taliban fighters captured Kabul.
The rapid fall of Afghanistan’s national forces and government has come as a shock to Biden administration, as only last month his team believed it could take months before the civilian government in Kabul fell — allowing a period of time after American troops left before the full consequences of the withdrawal were laid bare.
Now, months after his initial declaration that all 2,500 US troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of the summer, a total of 6,000 troops are expected to help facilitate the evacuation.
The US officials have frankly admitted that it was their miscalculation. “The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told media, referring to Afghanistan’s national security forces. “And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”
Biden is expected to address the nation soon regarding the Afghan crisis, according to a senior administration official.
The risks for Biden politically are uncertain; a majority of Americans say in polls they support withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and Biden’s aides have calculated the country shares his weariness at prolonging a 20-year conflict.
Some members of Congress are demanding more information from the administration on how its intelligence could have so badly misjudged the situation on the ground, or why more robust contingency plans for evacuating Americans and their allies weren’t in place.
During a briefing for lawmakers on Sunday, top administration officials faced harsh questioning over the withdrawal plans, including the evacuation of Afghan interpreters and others who assisted the US war effort. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed the officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, on why the process happened so quickly.