President Joe Biden defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and said he saw no way of getting “out without chaos ensuing” during an ABC News interview Wednesday.
Biden has been sharply criticized from both sides of the aisle after the Taliban quickly took control of Afghanistan, walking into Kabul on Aug. 15 and declaring the “Islamic State of Afghanistan.” The ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, which airs Thursday morning, was Biden’s first time answering questions about the situation, and he continued to defend the drawdown and admitted he believed chaos would’ve occur no matter what.
“So you don’t think this could have been handled — this exit could have been handled better in any way, no mistakes?” Stephanopoulos asked, according to a preview of the interview released by ABC.
“No, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,” the president replied. (RELATED: Returning From Vacation, Biden Plays Blame Game As Afghanistan Falls)
EXCLUSIVE: Pressed on whether the U.S.’s exit from Afghanistan could have been handled better, Pres. Biden tells me, “The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing—I don’t know how that happens.” https://t.co/j2MYMUJcdKpic.twitter.com/ua9T2q9wal
— GeorgeStephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) August 18, 2021
The president said “yes” when asked whether that chaos was always included in his decision making. He quickly changed his answer, however, saying he didn’t price in “exactly what happened” before going off to discuss what the administration thought the Taliban might to in terms of trying to stop the evacuation process.
“Now exactly what happened, I’ve not priced in,” Biden explained. “But I knew that they’re going to have an enormous – Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out. What they would do. What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having – we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there.”
Biden’s assertion that he always knew chaos would occur stands in contrast to some of his past comments on the situation. In July, the president promised that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan.”
Amid the Taliban takeover in August, photos surfaced showing a helicopter taking off from the roof of the embassy in Kabul.
The president also promised that the evacuation would be “secure and orderly,” dismissing the notion that the Taliban would take over. He called that move “highly unlikely” during his speech in July.
Biden was pressed on the images showing Afghans clinging to U.S. airplanes and falling from the sky. He became defiant and complained that they were from “four days ago, five days ago.”
“What I thought was, we have to gain control of this,” Biden added when asked for his first thoughts upon seeing the pictures. “We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did!”