US president discusses Afghanistan with UAE, Spanish leaders

US president discusses Afghanistan with UAE, Spanish leaders
US President Joe Biden spoke to UAE and Spanish representatives in two separate phone calls on Saturday as evacuation efforts are ongoing in Afghanistan.
3 min read
22 August, 2021
Thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee Kabul on August 16, 2021 [Getty]

US President Joe Biden spoke to his counterparts in the United Arab Emirates and Spain on Saturday to discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan, where the US evacuation has enabled Taliban militants to capture Kabul and gain control of most of the country.

Biden discussed the ongoing evacuation efforts on Saturday in a telephone call with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, expressing appreciation for the UAE's support in bringing to safety US citizens, diplomatic staff and vulnerable Afghan nationals.

The airport in Kabul has been the site of desperate scenes since the Taliban took control of the capital on August 15, with tens of thousands of Afghans waiting in the heat for hours or even days in a bid to get on an evacuation flight. At least three people were crushed outside Kabul airport as crowds pressed towards the entrance.

The UAE has so far facilitated the evacuation of 8,500 people from Afghanistan on its aircraft and through its airports. It also agreed to host 5,000 Afghan nationals on their way to a third country at the request of the United States, the Gulf Arab state's foreign ministry said on Friday.

The collaboration between the US and the UAE in Afghanistan reflects the strong ties between the two, including a close security cooperation. Biden and Bin Zayed have agreed on working together to address regional and global challenges, according to a readout of the phone call between the two leaders.

Separately, Biden thanked Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for Spain's leadership in rallying international support for Afghan women and girls and for its assistance in temporarily housing US-bound vulnerable Afghans at military bases in Rota and Moron.

Biden and Sanchez are working together to safely evacuate their citizens, as well as Afghans "who courageously supported the work of the EU mission", and other vulnerable Afghan nationals, according to a readout of the phone call.

Biden has been widely criticised for the lack of preparation in getting thousands of people airlifted to safety. The sudden Taliban victory has sparked fears of a large-scale humanitarian crisis both in Afghanistan and possibly involving waves of refugees seeking asylum abroad, including in western Europe.

The US president has defended his decision to pull out troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict.

"I am president of the United States of America and the buck stops with me," Biden said earlier this week in a much-awaited televised address from the White House.

"I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces."