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The fall of Kabul and the images that could tarnish Biden’s legacy

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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.

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- 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.

This image distributed Courtesy of the US Air Force shows the inside of Reach 871, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III flown from Kabul to Qatar on August 15, 2021. The plane safely evacuated some 640 Afghans from Kabul late Sunday, according to U.S. defense officials contacted by Defense One. - Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan to escape the hardline Islamist rule expected under the Taliban, or fearing direct retribution for siding with the US-backed government that ruled for the past two decades. Evacuation flights from Kabul's airport restarted on Tuesday after chaos the previous day in which huge crowds mobbed the tarmac, with some people so desperate they clung to the outside of a US military plane as it prepared for take-off. (Photo by Capt. Chris Herbert / US Airforce / AFP)


- 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.

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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"

Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on August 17, 2021, after Taliban seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government. (Photo by Hoshang Hashimi / 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.

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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.

- 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.

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- 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 Tuesday, 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.

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