UPDATED 12:47 PM PT – Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said he was heartbroken over leaving an estimated 200 Americans, along with thousands of Afghan allies, behind in Afghanistan. Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, he said the U.S. government was still committed to get everyone out, even without troops on the ground.
“As General McKenzie said yesterday, we’re heartbroken that we couldn’t get everybody out, but they still have our commitment,” he stated. “They have the commitment of this administration and the United States and we’re going to do everything we can to continue to try to get them out of that country and out safely.”
U.S. military flights have ended and our troops have departed Afghanistan. A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 31, 2021
On Monday, Commander of Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters something similar. He said that even if there had been an extension, everyone who wanted to leave would not have been able to.
“Look, there’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out, but I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, Luis, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he expressed. “There still would have been people who would have been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation.”
These statements have been directly contradictory to what Joe Biden previously promised. As the crisis on the ground in Kabul continued to escalate, the administration remained steadfast that everyone who wanted out would have by the deadline.
There is no deadline for Americans who want to leave. The Secretary of State will lead the continued coordination with international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 31, 2021
In a recent speech, Biden reiterated his commitment to evacuating everyone before the final troops left.
“We’re gonna do everything, everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States,” he announced. “Let me be clear, any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.”
The administration was working with the Taliban to secure the Kabul airport, which led to security issues and prevented many people from leaving. A massive terrorist attack occurred outside the Abbey Gate on Thursday during the withdrawal. 13 American military personnel were killed and the evacuation was set back for hours during the most crucial time for the withdrawal.
According to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. commitment to those still trapped in Kabul had no deadline. He said they would hold the Taliban to their agreements without providing much clarity on how exactly the Biden administration planned to do so.