In the face of mounting criticism, President Joe Biden defended his administration's course of action relating to the bungled U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, going so far as to tout the operation as an "extraordinary success."
What did he say?
"We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety," Biden said Tuesday during a national address following the U.S.'s official departure from Afghanistan. "No nation has ever done anything like it in all of history."
Biden has been roundly condemned for the botched evacuation, which has resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and the endangerment of tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan friendlies seeking to evacuate the country now under Taliban control.
The last U.S. plane exited Afghanistan on Monday, leaving behind hundreds of American citizens and thousands of Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. during the last 20 years of military occupation.
President Biden Delivers Remarks on Ending the War in Afghanistan www.youtube.com
Yet in Tuesday's speech, Biden rejected the criticism and rebranded the fiasco as a triumphant success story.
As part of the success, he claimed that "more than 5,500 Americans were airlifted out" of Afghanistan, a figure which the administration now says accounts for 90% of those stranded in the country. A passing grade, Biden implied.
"The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave," he said. "And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to getting them out if they want to come out."
In the speech, Biden granted that his "assumption" was that the Afghan National Security Forces would be able to defend themselves against the Taliban at least until Americans and Afghan nationals could be evacuated. And he even acknowledged "that assumption ... turned out not to be accurate."
But that's as far as he would go in terms of owning up to any mistakes.
"We were ready," he insisted in regard to the Taliban's advance.
"We were ready," he insisted again in regard to the subsequent rushed evacuation efforts.
"I take responsibility for the decision," he later said, though evidently not the fallout.
"Let me be clear: Leaving August the 31st was not due to an arbitrary deadline; it was designed to save American lives," the president proclaimed.
"Now some say, 'We should have started mass evacuations sooner' and 'Couldn't this have been done in a more orderly manner?'"
To those, he replied, "I respectfully disagree."