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In this photo released by The White House, President Joe Biden meets virtually with his national security team and senior officials for a briefing on Afghanistan, at Camp David August 15, 2021. — AFP pic
In this photo released by The White House, President Joe Biden meets virtually with his national security team and senior officials for a briefing on Afghanistan, at Camp David August 15, 2021. — AFP pic

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WASHINGTON, Aug 18 — President Joe Biden alone at a giant table in Camp David. A helicopter evacuating diplomats from the US embassy in Kabul. Armed militants celebrating victory in Afghanistan’s presidential palace.

The seizure of power by the Taliban has generated images that are sure to make history and threaten to leave a stain on Biden’s legacy.

Alone at Camp David

The photo showing Biden being briefed on the situation in Afghanistan by video conference while on retreat at a presidential resort was published Sunday by the White House.

But even as the commander-in-chief hears from a number of military and security advisors, the image portrays him as isolated, silent and immobile in a big room, seated at a long table with many empty chairs. Many US media, including progressive outlets, called the picture a public relations blunder.

A US Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul August 15, 2021. — AFP pic
A US Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul August 15, 2021. — AFP pic

The helicopter at the embassy

The photograph of a heavy-lift Chinook helicopter flying over the US Embassy in Kabul on Sunday, apparently to evacuate embassy personnel, has drawn comparisons to a similar image taken of the 1975 fall of Saigon as the Vietnam War ended in humiliation.

Republicans immediately seized on the image to blast the US leader, calling it “Biden’s Saigon.”

Just last month, during a press conference at the White House, Biden sought to reassure Americans that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan”

An image grab taken from Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television on August 16, 2021, shows Members of Taliban taking control of the presidential palace in Kabul after Afghanistan’s president flew out of the country. — Picture by Al Jazeera via AFP
An image grab taken from Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television on August 16, 2021, shows Members of Taliban taking control of the presidential palace in Kabul after Afghanistan’s president flew out of the country. — Picture by Al Jazeera via AFP

The Taliban in the presidential palace

Armed with Kalashnikov rifles and wearing black turbans, Taliban militants posed for photographs inside the presidential palace in Kabul after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in images that were sure to become iconic.

To make matters worse, one of the militants in the widely shared pictures claimed that he had spent eight years in the notorious US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The claim could not be verified by AFP.

People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video. — Reuters pic
People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video. — Reuters pic

Panic at the airport

The dramatic video showing dozens of Afghanis running after a US military plane as it was lifting off from Kabul’s airport and trying desperately to cling on to the aircraft has made headlines around the world.

The footage flew in the face of the Biden administration’s promise in recent weeks that the evacuation would unfold smoothly.

Evacuees crowd the interior of a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul August 15, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Defence One/Handout via Reuters
Evacuees crowd the interior of a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul August 15, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Defence One/Handout via Reuters

Afghans crammed into cargo plane

The photo of 640 Afghans squeezed inside a US Air Force cargo plane is a powerful symbol of the haste, chaos and anguish that marked the evacuation effort.

The Pentagon sought to refute that message yesterday, saying that the image in fact demonstrated the US army’s compassion. “It speaks to the humanity of our troops in this mission,” said spokesman Major General Hank Taylor. — AFP

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