President Joe Biden drew a rebuke from the government of a Central Asian country that took offense to a jibe he used to deflect criticism of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan.
“A verbal note of protest was conveyed to the U.S. Ambassador in connection with the statements by the President of the United States of America Mr. Joe Biden during his visit to a fire station in Pennsylvania,” Tajikistan’s foreign affairs ministry said in a Tuesday announcement. “The verbal note stated that such statements do not correspond to the spirit of friendly relations and partnership.”
U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim was called into the foreign ministry to hear the rebuke. Tajik officials and religious leaders have distinguished themselves as “the Taliban’s toughest critic” in the region, as a U.S.-backed media outlet put it Monday. Yet, Biden got crosswise with the Tajiks in an unscripted moment at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Seventy percent of the American people think it was time to get out of Afghanistan ... But the flip of it is, they didn’t like the way we got out. But it’s hard to explain to anybody how else could you get out,” Biden told reporters in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. “For example, if we were in Tajikistan, and we pulled up with a C-130 and said, ‘We’re going to let, you know, anybody who was involved with being sympathetic to us to get on the plane,’ you’d have people hanging in the wheel well. Come on.”
That comment was a reference to the tragedy at the Kabul international airport in the early days of the evacuation operation when Afghans seeking to escape the country tried to climb aboard a cargo jet as it rolled down the runway. The desperate scene was caught on video that showed two people falling to their deaths from the aircraft's landing gear to the city below, well after takeoff.
“The Republic of Tajikistan is interested in the development of mutually beneficial relations with the United States of America in the spirit of mutual support and mutual respect,” said Tajikistan's Foreign Affairs ministry.
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke