U.S. President Joe Biden discusses in the East Room of the White House in Washington, the United States, on Jan.
Evelyn Hockstein | REUTERS
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will address the nation from the White House on Monday afternoon after the Taliban captured the presidential palace in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul over the weekend, a dramatic development that will mark the seemingly end of 20 years as a nation of the United States. Building project marked started after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Biden’s remarks, scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET, will be his first since the Taliban toppled the Afghan government on Sunday. The president’s decision to address the nation comes amid mounting criticism of his government’s handling of the situation and calls on him to break his silence.
Though vastly outnumbered the Afghan military, long backed by US and NATO coalition forces, they have made a number of shocking gains on the battlefield in recent weeks.
As the Taliban approached the capital over the weekend, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and western nations rushed to evacuate embassies amid a deteriorating security situation.
Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on August 15, 2021.
AFP | Getty Images
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan admitted in an interview with NBC Monday morning that the speed of the Taliban’s takeover took the government by surprise, but said U.S. forces in the region were prepositioned to handle in the event of a rapid outbreak to respond collapse.
“It is certainly the case that the rate at which cities were falling has been much faster than anyone expected, including Afghans, including many analysts who have been studying the problem,” Sullivan said.
Biden ordered about 5,000 US soldiers to be sent to Kabul to evacuate US embassy staff over the weekend. The State Department confirmed on Sunday evening that all US diplomats from the embassy in Kabul were safely transported to Kabul International Airport.
“All embassy staff are on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, the area around which is secured by the US military,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The staff of the US embassy on site have been instructed to destroy sensitive information material prior to their departure.
Thousands of Afghans swarmed on the airport tarmac, desperate to flee a country that has now been completely overrun by the Taliban.
Afghan people are waiting to leave Kabul Airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021 after a surprisingly quick end to the 20-year war in Afghanistan as thousands of people besieged the city’s airport to face the dreaded hard-line Islamist rule to flee the group.
Deputy Kohsar | AFP | Getty Images
Two U.S. defense officials confirmed to NBC News that the Taliban seized the Bagram Air Force Base on Sunday, a development that came less than two months after the U.S. military handed over the once unshakable air base to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force.
The Taliban began emptying the Parwan Prison there, which is estimated to house an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 prisoners, including die-hard Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In 2012, at its peak, Bagram looked through more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers. It was the largest US military facility in Afghanistan.
In April, Biden ordered the Pentagon to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, a decision he believed was made in lockstep with NATO coalition forces.
Last week, Biden told reporters at the White House that he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s longest war.
“Look, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we’ve trained over 300,000 Afghan forces and equipped them with modern equipment,” Biden said on Aug. 10. “Afghan leaders need to come together,” added the president.
Biden stood firm in his position in a statement on Saturday amid the deteriorating security situation but before the Afghan government collapsed.
“One or five more years of US military presence would have made no difference if the Afghan military cannot or does not want to hold its own country,” said the president. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil war was not acceptable to me.”