Psaki says Afghanistan evacuation cannot be called ‘anything but a success’

White House press secretary defends Kabul pullout amid criticism from allies

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 24 August 2021 23:19
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White House labels Kabul airlift 'a success'
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki has defended the Biden administration’s handling of US evacuations from Kabul, claiming that the operation could not be called “anything but a success”.

Speaking with reporters at a daily press briefing on Tuesday, Ms Psaki was asked by Fox News reporter Peter Doocy whether the US was concerned about the possibility of Afghans with suspected ties to terror groups being among the evacuees; in response, she stressed that the US vetting process for evacuees was very strenuous.

“We have a stringent vetting process that includes background checks,” said Ms Psaki, who added: “[T]his is now on track, Peter, to be largest airlift in US history ... so no, I would not say that is anything but a success.”

Her remarks came as a new poll shows that just around one in four Americans support the job President Joe Biden is doing managing the US withdrawal from Kabul, even as a majority of the country still believes that pulling out combat troops from Afghanistan remains the right decision.

Overseas, the US administration has been hammered by critics, particularly in the UK, who have complained that the withdrawal essentially reverses all the gains made by coalition forces in the region for the past two decades.

The president has remained steadfast in his defence of the decision to continue with the withdrawal, explaining that he would not reengage America in a war with the Taliban without any guarantee of achieving a better outcome in the future.

During his questioning, Doocy also referenced Americans who have told news networks that they are unable to reach Hamid Karzai International Airport where the US evacuations are taking place, one of whom he identified as “Fatima” who told Fox News that US officials had not answered her emails.

In response, Ms Psaki made a direct request for the contact information of Fatima and any other American citizens who have told reporters that they have been unable to reach safety in Kabul or contact US personnel.

“If we are not in touch with this individual, give me their contact information and we’ll will get in touch with them. If any of you are hearing from American citizens who can’t reach us, give me their contact information and we will get in contact with them,” she stressed.

The Biden administration currently plans to wrap up the US evacuations from Kabul within a week from today, when a deadline set by Mr Biden is set to occur. A Taliban spokesperson said earlier on Tuesday that any attempt by the US to remain in Kabul beyond that date could result in “consequences”, while the White House said in a statement that the president had informed leaders of the G7 that the US was on pace to conclude evacuations of Americans and others by that date.

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