Amnesty International said on Friday that U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. failed to give assurances to Afghans at risk following his remarks at the White House on the situation in Afghanistan.
President Biden, flanked by Vice President Kama D. Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, delivered remarks on Friday afternoon, promising that the United States would get any Americans left in Afghanistan out of the country following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.
“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” President Biden said during a question and answer session following his speech.
Biden also committed to helping Afghan citizens who assisted the United States military during the 20-year-old-war there if they wished to leave the country.
He said more than 18,000 people had been evacuated since July while about 13,000 had been evacuated since Saturday. The President added that 5,700 people were evacuated on Thursday alone, adding that there were nearly 6,000 troops in Kabul.
The President said the evacuees include American citizens and permanent residents, as well as their families.
“It includes SIV applicants and their families — those Afghans who have worked alongside us, served alongside of us, gone into combat with us, and provided invaluable assistance to us, such as translators and interpreters,” he said. “The United States stands by its commitment that we’ve made to these people, and it includes other vulnerable Afghans, such as women leaders and journalists.”
He added, “In fact, working in close coordination with the management of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, we have successfully evacuated all 204 of their employees in Afghanistan on U.S. military aircraft earlier this week.”
On the earlier chaos at Kabul airport, the President said things were returning to normal.
“We have established the flow of flights, and we’ve increased the number of people we are moving out of the country,” he said. “We paused flights in Kabul a few hours this morning to make sure we could process the arriving evacuees at the transit points, but our commander in Kabul has already given the order for outbound flights to resume.”
Despite President Biden’s reassurances that Afghans will also be helped to flee Afghanistan, Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) said Mr. Biden’s speech did not go far enough.
“Vulnerable Afghans at risk were looking for reassurance from President Biden. They didn’t get it. They want to know that they’ll be processed for departure regardless of their eligibility for narrow and complicated visa programs,” O’Brien wrote. “They want to know that they’ll be able to reach the airport in safety. They want to know that the US will keep running evacuations until they and their family have had a chance to flee from harm’s way.”
He said President Biden could have used his speech to reassure them, but he didn’t, adding that “Amnesty International USA is going to keep pressing the White House until we get the right answer.”
“The administration must secure the airport and evacuate the most vulnerable Afghans, get more people on every plane, do it faster and spend however much time it takes,” O’Brien added.