WASHINGTON — As President Biden final month defended his decision to finish the U.S. navy presence in Afghanistan, he delivered a promise as outdated because the struggle itself to the Afghans who had risked their lives to help American troops.

“Our message to these men and women is evident: There’s a house for you in the USA, in case you so select,” the president mentioned. “We are going to stand with you, simply as you stood with us.”

However his determination to not start a mass evacuation of Afghan interpreters, guides and their family members earlier this yr has left thousands of people in limbo, stranded in a rustic now controlled by the Taliban after 20 years of struggle.

Even earlier than Mr. Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops, his administration rejected frantic calls from lawmakers and activists to evacuate Afghans, who now discover themselves in jeopardy.

Then this summer time, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, implored Mr. Biden to carry off on evacuations till U.S. forces have been gone for good, fearing that the picture would undermine confidence in his authorities.

Mr. Biden as a substitute took steps to streamline a visa system plagued with backlogs, despite the fact that it was by no means meant for the mass switch of individuals in a brief period of time. And in the USA, some officers have been expressing considerations about potential political blowback over an inflow of refugees.

Taken collectively, the administration’s actions left Mr. Biden’s promise largely unfulfilled final weekend and led to searing scenes at the Kabul airport, the place Afghans clung to the perimeters of departing American planes. And so they raised questions on whether or not an administration that has mentioned it will prioritize human rights overseas has deserted the Afghans it depended upon most, dimming the USA’ conventional international picture as a sanctuary for the persecuted.

The president on Wednesday defended the U.S. withdrawal and mentioned he didn’t see a strategy to depart Afghanistan with out “chaos ensuing.” In an interview with ABC Information, he was requested whether or not the exit may have been dealt with higher.

“No, I don’t assume it may have been dealt with in a method that we’re going to return in hindsight and look — however the concept one way or the other, there’s a strategy to have gotten out with out chaos ensuing, I don’t understand how that occurs,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “I don’t understand how that occurred.”

However critics mentioned the administration was squarely accountable.

“The failure to evacuate our allies rests solely within the arms of the Biden administration, who ignored veterans and advocates, even once they provided detailed plans on how evacuation to U.S. territory may very well be managed,” mentioned Chris Purdy, the undertaking supervisor for the Veterans for American Beliefs program at Human Rights First.

Since 2002, the USA has employed Afghans to help its troops, diplomats and help staff. A lot of these individuals have been threatened, attacked or compelled to flee their properties on account of their work, prompting Congress in 2009 to ascertain a visa program particularly for many who had helped the U.S. authorities, in addition to their rapid family members.

This system is separate from the method sometimes utilized by these fleeing persecution or torture. About 18,000 persons are within the means of making use of for the visas, and people candidates have no less than 53,000 family members who can be eligible to affix them. Regardless of a congressional mandate that the USA course of the visas in 9 months, hundreds have confronted lengthy delays for vetting.

The Biden administration has evacuated about 2,000 of the candidates to navy bases since mid-July, in accordance with the State Division. It’s getting ready to evacuate one other 800.

In a collection of conferences and calls since March, together with earlier than Mr. Biden introduced the U.S. withdrawal, lawmakers and resettlement officers warned the White Home and the State Division that the state of affairs required an pressing response — one that would not be addressed by the particular visa program, which took an excessive amount of time, in accordance with resettlement and former authorities officers who spoke on the situation of anonymity to explain inner discussions.

The particular visa program requires candidates to clear intensive ranges of vetting and supply proof of their work — paperwork that may be laborious to acquire for households who’ve been compelled to flee their properties. The Biden administration has blamed the earlier administration for exacerbating the delays by means of “excessive vetting” necessities.

The requires swift evacuations picked up even because the Biden administration deployed further workers members in Washington and on the embassy in Kabul to handle the backlogs. One official mentioned the administration reduce by means of the paperwork by slashing in half processing delays that totaled a median of two years when Mr. Biden got here into workplace, lobbying Congress to develop the variety of visas and waiving necessities for medical examinations.

Even in the very best of circumstances, nevertheless, vetting refugees is enormously time-consuming. The prospect of hundreds of Afghan refugees coming to the USA — quite than to different international locations — raised considerations amongst some authorities officers, who argued that it will open up the White Home to political pushback, in accordance with administration officers and different individuals acquainted with the matter.

Some lawmakers, resembling Consultant Matt Rosendale, Republican of Montana, have expressed considerations about expediting the vetting course of.

“Now we’re going to develop a process with which we will vet hundreds of people and simply relocate them to the USA?” he mentioned in an interview. “As soon as they’re settled right here, they will carry further relations right here. One sort deed doesn’t make an ally.”

Abandoning Afghans — especially women and girls — may have important political implications for Mr. Biden.

“The day they begin killing ladies in Afghanistan: That’s their political nightmare,” mentioned Michael A. McFaul, a professor of worldwide research at Stanford College and a former ambassador to Russia in the course of the Obama administration. “These numbers that assist withdrawal are extremely mushy. If ladies who took U.S.A.I.D. cash start to be arrested or killed, that assist will diminish rapidly, and other people might be outraged by the president.”

Refugee advocates say the Afghans’ sacrifices for the USA ought to outweigh any potential political threat that comes with mass resettlement.

“It’s fairly wealthy, contemplating we trusted these individuals sufficient to place the lives of U.S. forces of their arms however to not carry them to U.S. soil,” mentioned Becca Heller, the chief director of the Worldwide Refugee Help Venture, which is working with the State Division to help the Afghans.

Within the days because the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Mr. Biden has authorised a further $500 million for “sudden pressing refugee and migration wants of refugees, victims of battle and different individuals in danger on account of the state of affairs in Afghanistan.”

The administration additionally put out a name for volunteers all through the federal government to assist with processing the Afghan visas. An electronic mail from United States Citizenship and Immigration Companies described the chance as an “extraordinary initiative” and inspired any worker in any place to use.

The Pentagon’s prime two leaders mentioned on Wednesday that the USA was dedicated to evacuating all People who need to depart Afghanistan, in addition to Afghans who helped the struggle effort and have been cleared to enter the USA.

“We intend to evacuate those that have been supporting us for years, and we’re not going to depart them behind,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees, instructed reporters. “And we’ll get out as many as potential.”

At a information convention, nevertheless, neither Common Milley nor Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III would guarantee secure passage to the airport for People, Afghans and different foreigners exterior the perimeter.

“The forces that we’ve are targeted on safety of the airfield,” Mr. Austin mentioned. “I don’t have the potential to exit and prolong operations at present into Kabul.”

The administration has insisted that its actions in current months have been calculated selections, not missteps.

It relied on intelligence exhibiting {that a} Taliban takeover was 18 months away, and officers have acknowledged that they underestimated the tempo of the Taliban advance when contemplating whether or not to hold out evacuations. Many Afghans have been near the tip of the visa pipeline, leaving officers with an inaccurate sense that the administration had sufficient time to proceed to depend on the visa program.

The administration has additionally emphasised Mr. Ghani’s request over the summer time to carry off on evacuations till after the People have been out of Afghanistan.

“The Afghan authorities and its supporters, together with lots of the individuals now searching for to depart, made a passionate case that we must always not conduct a mass evacuation lest we set off a lack of confidence within the authorities,” Jake Sullivan, the nationwide safety adviser, mentioned at a White Home information briefing on Tuesday. “Now, our signaling assist for the federal government clearly didn’t save the federal government, however this was a thought of judgment.”

The administration was hesitant for months to maneuver the Afghans to navy bases in the USA or its territories, resembling Guam, preferring to maneuver them to different international locations as a substitute, in accordance with administration officers and other people acquainted with White Home and State Division deliberations. Lots of the evacuees would have solely non permanent safety whereas their visas have been processed. In the event that they have been denied visas, they would want to use for asylum or one other type of safety in the USA — immigration applications that Republicans have seized on to assault Mr. Biden.

“They’re mainly in the USA, and there’s not likely an efficient strategy to say no in an efficient method,” mentioned Barbara L. Strack, a former chief of the refugee affairs division at Citizenship and Immigration Companies in the course of the Bush and Obama administrations. “The federal government worries concerning the ‘no’ instances.”

One former contractor for the USA who was relocated from Jalalabad strolled aimlessly exterior a housing complicated in japanese Maryland on Monday afternoon, familiarizing himself together with his new environment.

The person, who requested to be recognized solely as Masoon out of concern for his security, mentioned he had made it from Kabul to Maryland after a 20-hour stopover on the Fort Lee navy base in Virginia. Though he arrived safely together with his spouse and 5 youngsters, his dad and mom and sisters remained in Jalalabad.

“I’m very pleased right here,” Masoon mentioned, “however I’m not pleased about my household.”

He added: “The Taliban is in Jalalabad, and what can I do about that state of affairs? It’s actually a harmful factor.”

Masoon mentioned he had misplaced all contact with them since he departed Afghanistan lower than two weeks in the past.

Eileen Sullivan, Jennifer Steinhauer, Michael D. Shear, Eric Schmitt, Catie Edmondson and Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington.