President Joe Biden warned Americans to expect a difficult process to evacuate more citizens, visa holders, and refugees from Afghanistan on Sunday.
“We have a long way to go. And a lot could still go wrong,” Biden said during an afternoon speech at the White House. The president was 18 minutes late in appearing.
He repeatedly offered excuses for the chaotic process, claiming there was “no way” to evacuate so many people without “pain and loss.”
“Nothing about this effort is easy,” he said.
Biden also tried to empathize with Americans concerned about the process, calling the images and videos emerging from the scene “heartbreaking.”
The president’s tone was sharply different from his more optimistic address on Friday about the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
Biden argued the process was never going to be easy, trying to avoid blame for the chaotic exit from the country.
“Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started, when we began,” he said. “It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now.”
Biden asserted that the military and the State Department were planning for ways to get more Americans out of the country but said he would not go into detail for security reasons.
“We’ve done a number of things,” he said. “Again, I don’t want to get into detail about.”
He also warned of terrorists who would try to exploit his chaotic departure from Afghanistan, including from ISIS-K.
“We know that terrorists might seek to exploit the situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops,” he said, promising to monitor all of the threats surrounding Afghanistan.