White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended President Joe Biden against accusations that his administration is doing “nothing” to assist the tens of thousands of SIV applicants who remain stuck in Afghanistan on Wednesday.
A reporter pressed Psaki during a briefing to explain what steps the Biden administration was taking to make good on its promise to get U.S. allies out of Afghanistan, saying that little progress appears to have been made in the six months since the U.S. withdrawal. (RELATED: Biden Rejects Army Investigative Report Detailing Chaotic Afghanistan Withdrawal)
“From this podium [National Security Adviser] Jake Sullivan that the commitment to allies [in Afghanistan] is sacrosanct. The administration committed to doing everything it could to get our allies out, but tens of thousands … including SIV people who are in the pipeline are still there and struggling. What exactly is the administration doing to get them out? Because on the ground and from Congress my sources say they think you’re doing nothing,” the reporter said.
“I would say that we have successfully helped, I can get you the specific number, but I believe it’s hundreds depart from Afghanistan — partners, allies, people who have stood by our side since we withdrew from Afghanistan,” Psaki responded. “We’ve worked in partnership with allies and partners in the region, including the Qataris where we have our diplomatic presence.”
“We are the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance of any country in the world, which we continue to provide through proven third-party aid organizations,” she added.
Biden’s handling of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been widely criticized as a low point in his first year in office. Biden vowed prior to the withdrawal that the process would be “safe and orderly,” but the operation was ultimately deadly and frantic. More than a dozen U.S. soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack while defending the Kabul airport as the evacuation was underway, and harrowing footage showed desperate Afghans clinging to U.S. planes during takeoff only to plunge to their deaths. (RELATED: Docs Reveal Biden Admin Was Warned About Rapid Afghan Air Force Collapse)
The U.S. withdrawal ultimately abandoned more than 100 U.S. citizens under Taliban control alongside tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families. Biden has since argued there was no way the withdrawal could have gone smoothly, contradicting what he had predicted prior to the operation.
“There was no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily — not possible, no matter when you did it,” Biden said in late January. “I make no apologies for what I did. I have great concern for the women and men who were blown up on the line at the airport by a terrorist attack against them, but the military will acknowledge … that, had we stayed and not pulled those troops out, we would be asked to put somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 more troops back in.”