Newsnight: Joe Biden's 'act of political courage' in Afghanistan to 'strengthen the US'

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Joe Biden has been keen to focus on the “significant progress” of the US evacuation mission – but despite his optimism about the operation, reports from Kabul suggest the safety and security of US forces in the country is rapidly deteriorating. The US President has been accused of causing a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and now many believe he is attempting to pretend that is not the case.

Joe Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted in recent days since the Taliban stormed the capital of Afghanistan and took control of the country.

The USA, UK and several other nations around the world are now desperately scrambling to evacuate their nationals and at-risk Afghans.

The US leader has stood by his decision to withdraw US troops from the country – despite the Taliban taking control in a matter of days.

Addressing the public this week, Mr Biden rejected calls to extend the August 31 exit deadline, despite many experts claiming it is too tight to save everyone.

He said: “We are currently on pace to finish by August 31.”

Despite Mr Biden’s optimism, he has been subject to extensive criticism in recent days.

Afghan nationals are reportedly unable to access the airport as the Taliban control checkpoints and US and other Nato member citizens are prioritised for evacuations.

Footage and on-the-ground reporting has indicated US passport holders have been prevented from entering the airport.

The USA, UK and other allied forces are currently having to rely on the Taliban to help secure access to the airport – which has prompted concern about the security threat to troops involved in the evacuation process.

On top of a tidal wave of backlash Mr Biden has faced, a former CIA analyst has accused the US President of “gaslighting” the United States.

Matt Zeller has argued Mr Biden and his administration could have opted for a better plan to help evacuate those stranded in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover.

Mr Zeller told MSNBC: “Let’s be clear, the president has got to stop gaslighting the country.

“We could have done this in a very orderly fashion, a plan existed all along.”

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The Afghanistan war veteran said he attempted to present a plan aimed at helping evacuate people from Afghanistan to the White House in February.

The plan involved using special immigrant visa applications – enabling Afghans who had assisted US forces during the USA’s almost 20-year occupancy in the country to escape.

He told MSNBC: “Had they listened to us, we wouldn’t have been in this situation.”

Mr Zeller also said the US leader would be judged not by how many people he evacuated but how many people he left behind.

The veteran added: “There’s a lot of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle.”

Others have echoed these comments, criticising Mr Biden’s actions throughout the Afghanistan crisis.

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, a former state department employee and president of the Truman Center, told Politico: “I don’t think the president’s rhetoric matches the conditions on the ground.”

Chris Purdy, from Veterans for American Ideals, a non-partisan group which has been helping with evacuations told Politico: “They keep saying this was inevitable, but there absolutely was a way to avoid this – if that’s not the definition of gaslighting, I don’t know what is.”

The White House faced more backlash on Wednesday after a pair of congressional lawmakers were publicly reprimanded for travelling to Kabul airport.

Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said the move was an unauthorised excursion and required “pull-off” of US military sources amid the urgent evacuation mission.

Despite only taking up office in January, many are calling for an end to his presidency.

Rick Scott, a Republican senator from Florida, said: “We must confront a serious question.

“Is Joe Biden capable of discharging the duties of his office or has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?”

The Vice-President Kamala Harris would need a majority of the Cabinet and two thirds of Congress to oust Mr Biden.

A recent poll shows 51 percent of Americans do not want Mr Biden to stand again in 2024 – compared to support for a second run from just 34 percent.

Instead, many are looking to Ms Harris to take up the reins in the wake of the Afghanistan disaster.

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