Aug. 23 (UPI) — President Joe Biden on Sunday said that he believes history will show he made the correct decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan despite the fall of the country’s government to the Taliban.
Speaking at the White House on Sunday, Biden said the United States has successfully evacuated more than 33,000 people from Afghanistan, while stating the process would continue to be difficult.
“I think that history is going to record that this was the logical, rational and right decision to make,” Biden said.
Biden said Sunday that the United States has evacuated 11,000 individuals from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in the past 36 hours, bringing the total removed from the country to 33,000 since July.
“We see no reason why this tempo will not be kept up,” Biden said.
His comments came as the 18 U.S. commercial aircraft — four from United Airlines, three each from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Atlas Air and Omni Air and two from Hawaiian Airlines — will be used to aid evacuations at the urging of the Pentagon.
Biden assured that this is a voluntary program that will have “no effect, or minimal effect” on commercial air flight and that the planes will not be landing in Kabul.
He added that the United States has set up processing stations in third countries “working with more than two dozen countries across four continents” for Afghan allies and other vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders and journalists as they are evacuated.
“Once screened and cleared, we will welcome these Afghans … to their new home in the United States of America,” Biden said.
The president added, however, that the United States still has “a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong.”
“The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began,” he said. “It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain.”
Biden said that the Taliban has so far not taken action against U.S. forces as the United States maintains a dialogue with the militant group, noting that the Taliban has said they are “seeking legitimacy” from the United States and other nations.
“The Taliban has to make a fundamental decision: Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done for hundreds of years, and if it does, it’s going to need everything from additional help in terms of economic assistance, trade and a whole range of things,” he said.
Biden said his administration would continue to observe what actions the Taliban would take and would be open to imposing sanctions on the group depending on their conduct.
The president said there are currently discussions within the administration on whether to extend U.S. presence beyond the Aug. 31 deadline he set for withdrawal, adding “our hope is we will not have to extend.”
In defending his decision to withdraw military forces, Biden said the primary goal of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan was to track down and kill Osama bin Laden, and continued presence no longer serves the national interest.
“I had a basic decision to make, I either withdraw America from a 20-year war … or I end the war,” Biden said, noting the economic and human toll of the war. “And I decided to end the war.”
“I’m convinced I’m absolutely correct in not deciding to send more young women and men to war for a war that in fact is no longer warranted.”