Biden vows to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden : speaks on Afghan evacuations

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged on Friday that every American who wanted to would be evacuated from Taliban-ruled Aghanistan, with about 13,000 brought home so far.

Facing a torrent of criticism for his handling of the U.S. troop withdrawal, Biden said he could not promise what the final outcome would be in Afghanistan, where the United States fought the Islamist group for 20 years.

“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history and the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world with this degree of precision is the United States of America,” Biden said in a speech at the White House.

“We’re going to do everything, everything that we can, to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” Biden said, adding that the U.S. government would bring home every American who wants to leave.

Foreign powers have sought to hasten evacuations after reports of Taliban reprisals, including against people who had worked with the departing U.S.-led forces or the previous Western-backed government.

In total, foreign countries have flown out more than 18,000 people since the militants took the capital Kabul, according to transatlantic alliance NATO, but Western governments are facing criticism for not anticipating such a chaotic exodus.

Thousands of desperate Afghans clutching papers, children and some belongings still thronged Kabul airport where gun-toting Taliban members urged those without travel documents to go home.

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In and around the airport, 12 people have been killed since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said.

Such was the turmoil that no nation really knows which plane its citizens are on, while some people were caught in Afghanistan on family visits, a Dutch minister said.

“Those who may be in danger have no clear way out,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said, urging neighbouring countries to keep borders open.

The speed with which the Islamist group conquered Afghanistan, as foreign troops were withdrawing, surprised even their own leaders and left power vacuums.

The Taliban called for unity, asking imams at Friday prayers to persuade people not to leave.

Residents in Kabul and four other cities said attendance was low, though prayers passed off without incident.