President Joe Biden on Friday said “significant progress” had been made this week in the mission to evacuate Americans, foreign diplomats and Afghan allies from Afghanistan, even as cable news channels broadcast live footage of chaotic scenes in and around Kabul’s airport.

“Since I spoke to you Monday, we’ve made significant progress,” Biden said in a statement after which he took a few questions from reporters.

The evacuations have been constrained by obstacles ranging from armed Taliban checkpoints to paperwork problems, the Associated Press reported.

Biden said there was no way to avoid some of the scenes that have been broadcast on television and that the evacuation was in better shape.

“What we have done so far is to get a large number of Americans out – all our personnel at the embassy out, and so on. And thank God, so far, knock on wood, we’re in a different position,” he said.

Biden said he thought the evacuation mission could be accomplished by the Aug. 31 deadline but said he was reserving final judgement. Analysts said that any extension of that deadline would need Taliban acceptance.

The mission is to evacuate American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and their families and vulnerable Afghans, according to the White House. SIV refers to the Special Immigration Visa program for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.

The president has drawn heavy flak this week for his administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with one magazine cover calling it “Biden’s debacle.” He defended the decision to leave in a brief speech on Monday, but critics said he didn’t directly address what they have described as a disastrous execution of the American exit.

Opinion: The U.S. and the world will regret the choice by Trump and Biden to abandon Afghanistan

“There’s no question that Joe Biden’s political capital has taken a hit, as withering hearings loom in several congressional committees in the coming weeks,” said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, in a note.

Biden said that he has not seen or heard any second-guessing from allies

“I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world. As a matter of fact, I have seen the exact opposite,” he said.

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Reporters pressed Biden on why the administration didn’t start the evacuation mission sooner, especially in light of advice of a “dissent cable” from the State Department predicting the Taliban would swiftly overrun the country.

Biden said he had received “all kinds of advice” and predictions about possible outcomes in the war -torn country.

“I made the decision, the buck stops with me,” he said.

One reporter asked Biden about what he would say to an Afghan civilian who worked for ABC and who the Taliban were “literally hunting.”

“We want you to be able to get to the airport, contact us,” Biden said. “We’ll see whatever we can do to get you out of there.”

Biden said he was considering rescue operations to recover Americans and Afghan allies stuck behind Taliban checkpoints which ring the airport.

Biden said setting up a perimeter way outside the airport, as some have suggested, would have unintended consequences.

People showing American passports are able to get through the Taliban checkpoints, he noted.

Military leaders on the ground in Kabul continue to deal with the mad rush of Afghanis who didn’t work with the U.S. but want to flee the Taliban.

U.S. stocks


traded higher on Friday, staying on track for weekly losses, as investors grappled with worries about the delta variant of the coronavirus, the imminent tapering of the Federal Reserve’s bond buying, and China’s restrictions on its domestic economy.

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