I’ve noticed something curious amid the unfolding debacle that is the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The obvious and correct priority for the U.S. right now, with the decision to withdraw having been made, is to get every American out of the country as soon as possible, given the threat faced from the unstable situation and the resurgent Taliban. So why does Team Biden keep hedging on this? There has been acknowledged confusion about how long U.S. forces will remain, and how many Americans are still in the country. But what to make of the weirdness of the line of multiple administration officials, including President Joe Biden himself, that they are working to get only those Americans who “want” to leave Afghanistan out of the country?
“We’re going to bring home all the Americans who wish to come home, but I just can’t put a firm number on it for you right now.”
“But let me be clear. Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.”
“The president I think was clear that we’ll do whatever we have to do to rescue as many Americans as want to leave Afghanistan, and the secretary’s not going to rule anything in or out in terms of what the possibilities might be there.”
“As the president and his team have made clear, the circumstances in Afghanistan are heartbreaking and we are bringing the Americans who want to come home, home.”
Maybe there is something I am missing here. But I can only imagine that, if you are an American currently in Afghanistan, you want to leave, unless we have some truly audacious souls out there who are making their way over to Ahmad Massoud as we speak. So why on earth is it necessary to qualify this language in any way? Why not just say “all Americans?” Surely it’s not to provide some kind of wiggle room, to lay the foundation for an assumption that any American who proves unable to make it to Kabul within the full-withdrawal deadline Biden has now decided to stick to, lest he anger the Taliban, actually wanted to stay. No, that couldn’t be it.
Update, 2:47 p.m.:
I missed this today, from White House press secretary Jen Psaki:
Addl context on American citizens of what I said: "We are committed to bringing Americans, who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via e-mail, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home…
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) August 24, 2021