The central Asian country of Tajikistan, which shares the entirety of its southern border with Afghanistan, has summoned the US ambassador on Tuesday to mount protest over remarks by President Joe Biden during weekend 9/11 anniversary commemoration events.
"A verbal note of protest was conveyed to the US 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 Ministry said in a statement. "The verbal note stated that such statements do not correspond to the spirit of friendly relations and partnership."
The US ambassador in residence in Dushanbe - the capital of Tajikistan - John Mark Pommersheim, was summoned on Tuesday. He was informed that the country was offended by Biden's reference to Tajiks also "hanging in the well of the wheel" if the US had landed a large C-130 transport plane in Tajikistan.
The diplomatic protest comes after Biden claimed at a 9/11 commemorative event in Pennsylvania that like Afghans, many Tajiks would also be “hanging in the well of the wheel” if the US pulled up a C-130 Hercules aircraft in Tajikistan.
Here's the offending section of the speech which Biden had delivered during a 9/11 memorial event at a fire station in Pennsylvania, according to the White House readout:
"As I read it, I am told, 70 percent of the American people think it was time to get out of Afghanistan, spending all that money. "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. 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."
Biden was defending the pullout and horribly botched evacuation initiated in mid-August, which resulted in multiple Afghan civilian as well as troop deaths. In particular he was referencing the Afghan civilians who attempted to hold on to the wheel skirt and landing gear of a C-130 while it took off from Kabul airport.
At least two had been filmed plummeting to their deaths immediately after the US plane took off, while another young man was found dead in the wheel well when it landed in Doha. The grisly scenes were widely deemed "defining images" of the US pullout fiasco in its final days.
Biden comments offered Tajikistan as a place where the exact same thing would supposedly happen, according to the president's words, which were framed using a whataboutism argument using Tajikistan as the foremost next example. No doubt, Tajikistan's leaders are outraged at the implication that the population is so desperate to flee that Tajiks would risk death to get out.