“No…The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he said.
“When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country; when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them, just leaving their equipment and taking off … That’s simply what happened.”
Biden said it was not realistic to expect a small number of US troops to fend off the Taliban if the US had reneged on its commitment, made by the Trump administration, to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“I had a simple choice. If I said, ‘We’re going to stay,’ then we’d better be prepared to put a whole lot hell of a lot more troops in,” he told the ABC.
Even by Biden’s standards, his answers were notably inarticulate and disjointed. Any viewers questioning his leadership would only have come out with their doubts strengthened.
We’ll see what long-term damage the withdrawal from Afghanistan does to Biden’s public standing. The story will eventually fade from the headlines. But the saga has dented his reputation as an experienced foreign policy expert who would restore normality after the upheavals of the Trump era.
Republicans, understandably, are painting Biden and his administration as bumbling and unfit to lead. If a general perception of incompetence hardens among voters it will be devastating for Biden – even if his decision to get out of Afghanistan is popular.
It would be unrealistic to expect everything to go smoothly when ending a 20-year war, but Americans rightly expect more competence from their political and military leadership than they have witnessed during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
So do America’s allies and desperate Afghans who have supported the war effort and are now fighting to flee potential reprisals from the Taliban.
Biden’s task now is to reassert a sense of control and significantly increase the number of daily evacuations out of Afghanistan. He can only hope that the American people forgive him over time, even if they don’t forget the images of pandemonium that filled their TV screens this week.
Get a note direct from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.