President Joe Biden admitted on Monday that the collapse of the Afghan government and therefore the Taliban retaking control happened more quickly than the United States government had anticipated, insisted that ending America’s 20-year war was the right decision.
But the President refused to retreat from his decision to finish the American military’s mission within the nation, where the US had fought the nation’s longest war, asserting that the US mission was “never alleged to be nation-building” and blaming the Afghan government for the autumn.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never an honest time to withdraw US forces,” Biden said during a speech from the East Room of the White House Monday afternoon. “That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for each contingency. But I always promised the American people I might be straight with you. the reality is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
Biden added that the US national interest in Afghanistan has always been “preventing a surprise attack on the American homeland,” which that US mission had already been met. Despite saying he was willing to require criticism over the choice to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, Biden pointed fingers at a series of others for the unfolding crisis. Biden blamed Afghanistan’s soldiers for not standing up to the Taliban’s lightning-quick offensive, which put the repressive group back on top of things of the state 20 years after US troops helped toss the Taliban out of power and therefore the creation of a democratic government.
The President also pointed to the highest Afghan leaders as deserving blame. “So, what happened?” Biden asked. “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.” The President said he had “frank conversations” with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Afghan delegation to peace talks, earlier this summer, but — ultimately — they didn’t take the US’ suggestions.
“We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the US military departed, to wash up the corruption in government, therefore the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the necessity for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They did not do any of that. I also urged them to interact in diplomacy, to hunt a political settlement with the Taliban. this recommendation was flatly refused,” Biden said. “Mr. Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. and clearly, he was wrong.”
Biden also laid a part of the blame for the present situation on his predecessor, Donald Trump, who brokered an effect on the Taliban to withdraw American troops by May Day, 2021. While the bulk of USA citizens support the choice to finish the military combat decision in Afghanistan, it remains to be seen how the botched withdrawal is going to be viewed by the general public. The President aimed to address potential detractors by asking them a hypothetical question: “How more generations America’s daughters and sons would you’ve got me to send to fight in Afghanistan’s war when Afghan troops will not?”
“How more lives, American lives, is it worth? what percentage of endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? I’m clear on my answer,” he added. The President also acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” scenes in Afghanistan, saying that “for those that have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and or Americans who have fought and served within the country, served our country in Afghanistan, this is often deeply, deeply personal.” Biden said that within the coming days the US military will provide assistance to evacuate more Afghans eligible for special immigration visas and their families to the US. Refugee access, he said, also will be expanded to hide “other vulnerable Afghans who work for our embassy … US nongovernmental organizations and Afghans who otherwise are an excellent risk, and US news agencies.”
The President on Monday claimed that the rationale evacuations of SIV applicants weren’t conducted sooner — perhaps the most important criticism his administration has received since announcing the withdrawal — was because some Afghans didn’t want to go away before things became dire. He again sought responsible for the Afghan government, claiming its leaders were scared of the optics. “I know there are concerns about why we didn’t begin evacuating Afghan civilians sooner. a part of the solution is a few of the Afghans didn’t want to go away earlier, still looking forward to their country. And a part of it because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence,” Biden said.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups have for months been calling on the Biden administration to accelerate its efforts to urge SIV applicants out of Afghanistan, before the US military withdrawal from the country. A State Department spokesperson said on Sunday that the US has relocated nearly 2,000 SIV applicants. The US, Biden said, has “made it clear to the Taliban if they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the US presence is going to be swift, and therefore the response is going to be swift and forceful.” Immediately following the speech, Biden began to return to Camp David, where he spent the weekend on vacation.
During daily video conference calls from the Maryland presidential retreat, Biden has received information and proposals from military leaders about the way to secure the Kabul airport. He had originally been scheduled to stay at Camp David until Wednesday but only briefly returned to the White House for the speech. The White House released a photograph of a casually dressed Biden receiving an appointment on Sunday. In it, he appeared alone at an outsized council table as senior administration officials beamed in from the White House, Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Doha, the Qatari capital.
Speaking Monday on morning television programs, senior members of Biden’s national security team had also sought to shift blame for the collapse of the Afghan government on the country’s defense forces, which they said lacked the desire to defend their country against the Taliban.
But they continued to acknowledge that the speed with which Afghan cities fell — ending with Kabul — had caught them all of sudden .
“It is certainly the case that the speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on NBC’s “Today.” Recriminations over the failure to acknowledge the shortcomings of the Afghan army, or to predict the speed of its collapse, are swift since the Taliban claimed control of the country on Sunday. Biden himself repeatedly downplayed the prospect of the Taliban taking up Afghanistan over the past weeks and rejected the notion Americans would be evacuated from the embassy there — the precise scenario that ended up playing out on Sunday.
Now, scenes from Kabul, including Afghans clinging to the side of moving US military transport planes, have heightened the impression the US war is ending in the mayhem. They belie the administration’s descriptions of a “safe and orderly” evacuation from the country. Biden himself has pressed his national security team to elucidate how intelligence assessments — which as recently as last month said it could take weeks or months for Kabul to fall after the last US troops withdrew — were so off, consistent with people conversant in the matter.
At an equivalent time, he has not second-guessed his decision to withdraw. And senior White House advisers said the swift collapse of the Afghan military after years of coaching from American forces only confirmed the unlikelihood that any longer time within the country could change the eventual outcome.