Biden refuses to take questions on Afghans clinging to planes after speech on crisis

Biden did not acknowledge reporters who asked him about the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan

<p>File: Joe Biden says he stands by his decision to pull out US troops from Afghanistan </p>

File: Joe Biden says he stands by his decision to pull out US troops from Afghanistan

Joe Biden on Monday refused to answer questions about terrifying visuals of Afghans clinging to a US military aircraft in a desperate attempt to escape the country under Taliban rule.

The US president could be seen leaving after delivering a national address on the situation, without acknowledging reporters who got up from their seats and tried to ask him about the ongoing crisis.

“What do you think of the Afghans clinging to aircraft?” Peter Alexander, the chief White House correspondent for NBC News, can be heard asking Mr Biden, as the president is seen stepping away from the podium and leaving.

Visuals of thousands of Afghans running and trying to board a moving aircraft and crowding Kabul’s international airport to flee the country were shared on social media as the Taliban took control of the national capital.

At least seven reportedly died in the chaos at the Kabul airport. Military flights to evacuate diplomats and civilians continued, while the airport runway was cleared of thousands of people on Tuesday, reported news agency Reuters.

“The number of civilians at the airport had thinned out,” a western security official at the facility told Reuters on Tuesday, although occasional firing coming from the direction of the airport could be heard.

The Taliban’s control of national capital Kabul – shortly after president Ashraf Ghani fled the country – has sparked global concern over the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country.

The Taliban has said there would be no retribution. There have, however, been reports of executions in areas under Taliban control, including in Spin Boldak and Ghazni.

Mr Biden said he stands “squarely behind” his decision to pull the US out of Afghanistan, adding that the other alternative would have been to return to war with the Taliban.

This was Mr Biden’s first in-person interaction with the media after what has been called by many as the biggest foreign policy crisis to have emerged in less than a year during his presidency.

The decision to pull US troops from the country has resulted in fierce criticism, with several alleging the pullout was hasty and will now result in a rule that will severely impact the freedoms of the country’s citizens, especially women and minorities.

Mr Biden said the crisis was “gut-wrenching” and admitted that the insurgents seized control of most of the country sooner than his administration expected.

The president, in his address, said 6,000 troops have been dispatched to Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation of the “allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.”

Mr Biden said he inherited the decision to pull US troops out from the country from his predecessor Donald Trump.

“When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban,” he said. “Under his agreement, US forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office,” he added.

Mr Biden, in his address, said he urged Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani to deal with the Taliban. “We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the US military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people,” he said.

The president, defending his decision, said the US was dissuaded from “organising a mass exodus” to avoid triggering a “crisis of confidence.”

“I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans – civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier – still hopeful for their country,” Mr Biden said.

“And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organising a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, ‘a crisis of confidence’,” he added.

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