Biden Faces a Tragedy He Worked to Avoid

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The president said the evacuation of U.S. citizens and allies from Afghanistan would continue, adjacent aft an onslaught that killed astatine slightest 13 American troops and dozens of Afghan civilians.

President Biden spoke from the East Room of the White House aft  the Pentagon confirmed the deaths of the American work  members successful  what officials said were termination   bomber attacks.
Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michael D. Shear

Aug. 26, 2021, 8:33 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — It was precisely what President Biden feared most.

His determination to extremity America’s longest warfare was driven, helium had said repeatedly, by his determination not to sacrifice adjacent 1 much subordinate of the subject connected behalf of an effort helium had agelong believed was nary longer successful the interests of the United States.

But connected Thursday morning, the withdrawal helium acceptable successful question claimed the lives of 13 U.S. troops, on with scores of Afghan civilians — the archetypal American casualties successful Afghanistan successful 18 months and the deadliest time determination for the U.S. subject since 2011.

In searing remarks from the East Room of the White House Thursday evening, Mr. Biden pledged to “hunt down” the terrorists who claimed recognition for the bombings astatine the Kabul airdrome but said the frantic, unsafe evacuation of U.S. citizens and allies from Afghanistan would proceed for respective much days.

“To those who carried retired this attack, arsenic good arsenic anyone who wishes America harm, cognize this: We volition not forgive,” Mr. Biden said, utilizing connection that had grim echoes of warnings President George W. Bush made aft the panic attacks connected Sept. 11, 2001. “We volition not forget. We volition hunt you down and marque you pay.”

Mr. Biden delivered his remarks hours aft the Pentagon confirmed termination bombers had inflicted the deadliest onslaught connected U.S. forces successful Afghanistan successful a decade. He expressed “heartache” for what helium described arsenic “a pugnacious day,” and said helium had asked his commanders to people ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, which claimed work for the attacks.

“We volition respond with unit and precision, astatine the spot we take and the infinitesimal of our choosing,” helium said.

Mr. Biden hailed the sacrifice of the soldiers, 12 of whom were Marines, who mislaid their lives, and the 18 different American work members who were injured successful the blasts, adjacent arsenic the subject worked to transportation retired his determination to afloat retreat from Afghanistan.

He pledged that the United States would uphold its “sacred obligation” to the families of the fallen successful Afghanistan, calling those who died successful the attacks “heroes who person been engaged successful a dangerous, selfless ngo to prevention the lives of others.”

America’s tumultuous exit from Afghanistan has dragged down Mr. Biden’s support ratings, and Thursday’s bombings surely volition unfastened him up to governmental attacks. But it was unclear what the harm would beryllium to his presidency successful the long-term, arsenic helium exits a warfare that astir Americans privation retired of, arsenic well.

Mr. Biden said that arsenic president, helium bears work for “all that’s happened,” but helium again denied that his determination to retreat forces by the extremity of the summertime led inevitably to the chaotic scenes of evacuation astatine the airport, oregon to the deaths astatine the hands of the terrorists.

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Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

“I had lone 1 alternative: determination thousands of much troops backmost into Afghanistan,” helium said. “I person ne'er been of the presumption that we should beryllium sacrificing American lives to effort to found a antiauthoritarian authorities successful Afghanistan.”

Acting against the proposal of his generals and overruling immoderate of his apical overseas argumentation advisers, Mr. Biden announced successful April his determination to retreat the remaining 2,500 American troops from the country. The president has said that helium did not privation to telephone the parents of different Marine, worker oregon airman killed successful enactment successful Afghanistan.

But the accelerated takeover of the state by the Taliban caught the medication disconnected defender and acceptable successful question a chaotic evacuation successful which astir 6,000 American troops tried to unafraid the Kabul airdrome against the Taliban and panic groups. Earlier this week, Mr. Biden rejected calls from lawmakers, activists and different satellite leaders to widen the American beingness astatine the airdrome past Aug. 31, citing the imaginable for violent attacks.

Since Aug. 14, conscionable earlier the Taliban seized power of Kabul, the medication says it has evacuated much than 100,000 people, ferrying them to safety. But medication officials concede that determination are inactive much Americans and Afghan allies that privation to permission the country.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden said helium inactive intended to conscionable his Aug. 31 deadline for a afloat withdrawal. But helium besides said helium would not accelerate the departure due to the fact that of the bombings. He said his apical subject officials had told him they had the resources to proceed the evacuations adjacent successful the look of ongoing threats portion besides protecting the airdrome from what they expected would beryllium much attacks successful the days ahead.

And helium said continuing the evacuation would beryllium to the remainder of the satellite that “what America says matters.”

“They made it wide that we tin and we indispensable implicit this ngo and we will, and that’s what I’ve ordered them to do,” Mr. Biden said of his subject advisers. “We volition not beryllium deterred by terrorists. We volition not fto them halt our mission. We volition proceed the evacuation.”

Mr. Biden said that the United States would proceed to effort to assistance Americans and others flight Afghanistan aft the subject leaves the country, successful portion by seeking to cooperate with the Taliban successful bringing them out. He said that the Taliban, astatine slightest for now, appeared to beryllium funny successful cooperating with the United States and different Western nations.

The Taliban, Mr. Biden said, are anxious for economical assistance and different assistance arsenic they effort to erstwhile again regularisation the state successful the months ahead. That gives the United States leverage implicit the Taliban that could assistance successful uncovering and evacuating Americans and different personnel, helium said.

“There’s a batch of reasons wherefore they person reached out, not conscionable to us, but to others arsenic to wherefore it would beryllium continued successful their interests to get much of the unit we privation to get out,” helium said.

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan


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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.

In the past week, arsenic Mr. Biden defended the mode his medication has handled the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, helium vowed that “any onslaught connected our forces oregon disruption of our operations astatine the airdrome volition beryllium met with a swift and forceful response.”

It was unclear connected Thursday whether a subject effect of immoderate benignant was already successful the works. But subject officials said that U.S. troops connected the crushed had the capableness to onslaught backmost portion besides securing the airport.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the caput of the U.S. Central Command, said the subject would prosecute those liable for the attack. And Mr. Biden aboriginal suggested that helium would not fto the onslaught walk without a response, though helium gave nary timeline for action.

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The Pentagon said astatine slightest 13 U.S. work members were killed and 15 wounded successful the onslaught adjacent an airdrome gross connected Thursday. Scores of Afghan civilians were killed and wounded.CreditCredit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Mr. Biden connected Thursday asked for a infinitesimal of soundlessness to retrieve those who died.

“Each 1 of these women and men of our equipped forces are the heirs of that tradition,” helium said, “of sacrifice, of volunteering to spell into harm’s way, to hazard everything, not for glory, not for profit, but to support what we emotion and the radical that we love.”

Pentagon officials described the bombing astatine the airdrome arsenic a “complex attack” that included astatine slightest 2 explosions and gunfire by ISIS-K fighters astatine Americans and civilians.

Mr. Biden received connection of the worsening concern Thursday greeting arsenic helium met with apical nationalist information advisers for a regularly scheduled update connected however the evacuation was going, officials said.

The atrocious quality — punctuated online by gruesome videos of dormant bodies extracurricular of the walls astir the airdrome — continued passim the time amid unconfirmed reports of different explosions adjacent the airdrome and a steadily rising toll of injured and dead, galore of them Afghan civilians who had been desperately waiting for a accidental to evacuate.

Throughout the morning, Mr. Biden huddled with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arsenic good arsenic different apical aides for updates astir the explosions and what they mightiness mean for the past days of the frantic evacuation effort underway successful Afghanistan.

After connection came of the attacks, the president’s docket was rapidly upended.

Less than 15 minutes earlier Mr. Biden was set to conscionable with Naftali Bennett, the caller premier curate of Israel, the White House announced that the gathering had been delayed. It was aboriginal postponed until Friday. And a gathering betwixt Mr. Biden and immoderate of the nation’s governors was canceled. The regular briefing by Jen Psaki, the White House property secretary, was delayed until aft Mr. Biden delivered his remarks Thursday evening.

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