Despite Chaos in Kabul, Biden Defends His Decision to Withdrawal US Troops from Afghanistan after 20 Years
By Yehudit Garmaise
Since Oct. 7, 2001, just more than a month after 9/11, when American troops first arrived in Afghanistan, while many Americans have criticized the “endless war” that American troops have been fighting, other Americans feared that pulling US troops out of Afghanistan without a specific exit strategy would only embolden terrorists and the mujahideen, who are Islamic guerrillas who fight in what they see as a “holy war” on behalf of the extremists who support the Taliban: a brutal, repressive and Islamic fundamentalist governmental force.
Now, just weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, President Biden has ordered the vast majority of US forces to return from Afghanistan, whose Western-backed government collapsed almost immediately over the weekend.
Although US intelligence analysts had predicted it would likely take several more weeks before Afghanistan’s civilian government in Kabul fell to Taliban fighters, on Sunday, Islamic militants stormed the presidential palace and ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who immediately fled the country.
The sudden arrival of chaos in Kabul, Afghanistan has taken many by surprise and caused many to blame Biden for announcing his withdrawal of U.S. troops too abruptly. Fearing the return of the Taliban, which has once again taken over the city, desperate Afghans seeking any way out of their country, attempted this morning to hold on to and enter American aircraft that were trying to take off and leave an airport in Kabul. Sadly, some who tried to fly away with the Americans soon fell to their deaths, as the plane ascended.
In response, President Biden, who has remained resolute in his decision to withdraw American troops from the country, has sent an additional 6,000 troops, to add to the 98,000 American troops, who have already served in Afghanistan, to secure the airport: a sign of the difficult and almost impossible process of exiting America’s longest war.
Today, however, when he addressed the nation, the president, who said that he spoke about the withdrawal of troops with former President George W. Bush, who approved the invasion in 2001, “I stand squarely behind my decision.
"After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there: we were clear-eyed about the risks, we planned for every contingency.”
“The truth is, this [the country's collapse] did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
To explain the swift return of the rule of the Taliban, Biden said, "Themilitary gave up, sometimes without trying to fight," but Sen. Marsha Blackburn today said that what the president lacked was "an exit strategy.”
“He had a date he wanted to be out by, which was September 11," Sen. Blackburn said on SiriusXM. "And as … the Taliban had said for years, ‘You might have the clocks, but we’ve got the time.'”
Biden explained that ever since he first visited Afghanistan after he was sworn in as vice president in 2008 to serve under President Barak Obama, President Biden has been convinced that “only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country, and that more and endless American military force could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government.
“I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.
“We did that.”
Biden reviewed that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is now gone, and the US “has stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since.”
“Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan have becoming increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved,” President Biden said.
After mentioning many different terror groups in Somalia, the Arabian peninsula, Syria, and Iraq, the president explained that terror threats have become more “dispersed, metastasizing around the globe.”
“With terror threats now in so many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in this one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and other leaders,” the president said. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending and expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result.”
The president, who pointed out that he is “the fourth US president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan: Two Republicans and two Democrats,” then promised, “I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth.”
“After consulting closely with our allies and partners with our military leaders and personnel and diplomats and our development experts, the congress, and the vice president, as well as [recently ousted Afghani president] Mr. Ghani and many others around the around, I concluded that it is time to end America’s longest war.
“It is time for American troops to come home,” which the president said they will do: beginning on May 1, 2022, a year after Trump had agreed they would return.
The president also said that he will continue to "evaluate our counter-terrorism capabilities, but we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat."
Addressing Republicans who have heaped criticism on the president for allowing the government of Afghanistan to be so quickly taken over by the Taliban, Biden pointed out that he actually inherited a diplomatic agreement that negotiated by President Donald Trump and the Taliban that all US forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1 of 2021: just three months after Biden’s inauguration.
“That is not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the US. Government, and that means something, and I am keeping with that agreement,” President Biden said. “We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.
“We will do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely, and we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now, have more forces in Afghanistan than we do.
“The Taliban should know, if they attack us, as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all of the tools at our disposal.”
“When will be the right moment to leave?” the president asked, addressing his critics. “One more year, two more years? 10? 20? How many more trillions of dollars should we add to what we have already spent?
“We have to have clear answers to the following questions. I have not heard any good answer to these questions.
“If we can’t answer them, we should not stay.”
"Here's what I believe to my core," the president said. "It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan's own armed forces would not."
(Official White House Photo by Katie Ricks)