Biden says ‘hard’ to meet Afghan pullout deadline

Published March 26, 2021
United States President Joe Biden holds his first formal news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on Thursday. — Reuters
United States President Joe Biden holds his first formal news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on Thursday. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said on Thursday it will be “hard” to meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw all American soldiers from Afghanistan as part of a Taliban deal, but stressed troops are not there indefinitely.

“It is going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline in terms of tactical reasons. It’s hard to get those troops out,” Biden said in his first press conference since taking office on January 20.

“We will leave, the question is when we leave,” he said. Asked whether he envisions US soldiers still in Afghanistan in 2022, the president said: “I can’t picture that being the case.” The president set a new goal of administering 200 million vaccination shots against Covid-19 in the United States in his first 100 days in office and claimed economic progress as he held his first solo news conference since taking office.

Appearing in the White House East Room, Biden said his initial goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots in his first 100 days in office was reached last week, 42 days ahead of schedule.

“I know its ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close,” said Biden.

He also claimed economic progress with the news that the number of people claiming unemployment insurance had dropped significantly.

“There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and still a lot of work to do. But I can say to the American people: Help is here and hope is on the way,” he said.

Biden called for Republicans in the US Congress to help him move forward with his agenda or “continue the politics of division” as he takes on issues like gun control, climate change and immigration reform.

“All I know is I was hired to solve problems, not create divisions,” he said.

Biden was pressed to defend his migration policy along the US border with Mexico amid a surge of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.

Biden said the increase in migration was cyclical.

“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months,” he said. “It happens every year.” He said many migrants were fleeing problems in their home countries. He blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for dismantling parts of the US immigration system.

Most of Biden’s predecessors had held their first news conference in their first two months in office, but the Democratic incumbent has so far taken few questions.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2021

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