Will president’s gamble pay off? Biden makes another robust defence of Afghan pullout as his approval ratings plummet

Two specific points are worth emphasising from the US president’s latest appearance.

Joe Biden didn’t rule out an extension of the 31 August deadline to pull the troops out. Of course it is not clear how the Taliban and its offshoots will react to any extension.

He also said the forces on the ground are extending the airport perimeter to ease the pressure and make it easier, he hopes, for people to get to the airport.

Again – the key to this will be the Taliban reaction.

Joe Biden 'convinced' he is right on US military pullout

Joe Biden ‘convinced’ he is right on US military pullout

The president chose the same core thrust for his third address in a week – a robust defence of his decision to pull out of Afghanistan.

“My job is to make decisions no one else will make,” he said in the Roosevelt room of the White House.

But there was a shift in tone this time. He was more empathetic to the situation on the ground.

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Remember, he told ABC News last Wednesday that “touch wood” no one has died. At that point people had already died and since then more have been crushed to death in the chaos.

“The evacuation is going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began…” he said.

There was, he insisted: “No way to evacuate this many without the pain and loss. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people.”

Everything you need to know about the Taliban takeover

Everything you need to know about the Taliban takeover

And at the same time he was robust in his reassurances that anyone brought to the US would face security screenings in a third country.

He announced that commercial airliners would be used to help with the airlift, taking people from third countries to their final destination.

There is a growing crisis in places like Germany where bottlenecks of people are waiting to complete their relocation.

His approval ratings have plummeted in this crisis. He knows he needs to appeal to liberals who wonder where his empathy has gone, and to conservatives who fear social challenges and security risks with so many Afghans arriving.

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At Dulles Airport near Washington, through the weekend, some of the more fortunate Afghans have been arriving – families stepping out of their homeland chaos and into this new world.

The challenges ahead for them will be huge and their presence here will stir an already divided nation.

The president’s gamble is that the chaos will soon be sorted, then forgotten, and he’ll be remembered for getting the troops out.

Domestic politics is only half the problem though. Despite claiming that he hasn’t detected any dent in American credibility among allies, he must know the reality is starkly different.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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