Biden scraps plans to spend night in Delaware
President Biden scrapped plans to travel to his home in Wilmington, Del., on Friday as the White House grapples with the chaotic situation in Afghanistan.
Biden had been scheduled to depart the White House for Wilmington Friday afternoon, but a White House official said that he will no longer be traveling and will instead remain in Washington on Friday night. It’s unclear if he could travel to Wilmington later on in the weekend.
Biden is delivering remarks Friday afternoon on the ongoing effort to evacuate American citizens and Afghans who assisted U.S. forces in the 20-year war.
The Biden administration is under pressure to quickly evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies who are stranded in the country as the Taliban consolidates control.
On Thursday, the U.S. evacuated roughly 3,000 people from Kabul’s international airport on 16 military flights, including 350 U.S. citizens, a White House official said. The Biden administration says it does not know the precise number of Americans who remain in Afghanistan.
Chaotic and heart-wrenching images have emerged from Hamid Karzai International Airport as individuals await flights out of Afghanistan. One video circulating on social media showed a baby being handed over a wall to U.S. troops at the airport.
The White House has been unusually quiet this week, in part because it was supposed to be a sleepy week in August with Congress finally out on recess. Biden frequently slips out of Washington to spend weekends at his home in Wilmington.
Biden, who spent last weekend at Camp David, returned to the White House to deliver speeches on Afghanistan and the coronavirus and sit for an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He and Vice President Harris have been regularly briefed on the situation in Afghanistan throughout the week.
Regular updates on the situation in Afghanistan have largely come from briefings at the Pentagon and State Department. White House officials, including Jake Sullivan, have made the rounds on cable news programs to respond to questions about the unfolding situation.
Biden has forcefully defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan amid widespread criticism of the execution of the withdrawal. While the president and other top officials have acknowledged the Afghan government fell much quickly than expected, they insist the administration was prepared for all contingencies, including the current situation.
“I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,” Biden said.
Biden also pledged to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated, even if that means missing his Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw forces. The White House has not made the same commitment with respect to Afghan partners.
Appearing on MSNBC Friday morning, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield portrayed Biden as laser-focused on the mission at hand.
“Of course these scenes are heartbreaking. Of course the images that we’ve seen over the last week are difficult. I think at any time when a government and a 300,000-person army essentially melts away, there’s going to be some level of chaos. That doesn’t make it acceptable. It’s not acceptable to the president,” Bedingfield said.
“That’s why he has directed the Department of Defense to move to get every American out of Afghanistan who wants to get out, to get our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan. It’s why we’re able to have flights taking off and the numbers of people we’re seeing continue to increase each day that we’re moving out of the country,” she said.