WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden says he stands behind his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and he admitted that the Taliban takeover of the country happened quicker than his administration anticipated.
Biden addressed the nation Monday about the chaos ensuing in Afghanistan amid the U.S. troop withdrawal. The Taliban has nearly taken over all of Afghanistan as the U.S. continues to withdraw from the Middle Eastern country ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there,” said Biden from the East Room of the White House.
Biden said the mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building or creating a centralized democracy.
“Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: Preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland,” said Biden.
The Biden and other top U.S. officials have said they didn’t anticipate Afghanistan’s cities to fall to the Taliban as quickly as they did over the past week.
“We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency, but I always promise the American people that I’ll be straight with you. The truth is that this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” said Biden.
The U.S. has deployed thousands of troops to the country to assist with evacuating U.S. and allied personnel, as well as Afghans who have helped America and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Stunning video continues to come out of Afghanistan, showing crowds of people desperate to flee the country. At Kabul’s international airport, thousands of Afghans were seen rushing onto the tarmac and some clung to an American military jet as it took off and plunged to their death. U.S. officials have confirmed that at least seven people died in that chaos.
Although Biden is facing criticism for the way the U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan, the president is standing by his decision to end the nation’s longest war.
During his remarks, Biden pointed out that the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan started with an agreement made by the Trump administration.
Biden also said the U.S. gave the people of Afghanistan “every tool they could need” to combat the Taliban.
“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will the fight for that future,” said Biden.
The president argued that having American troops continue to fight in Afghanistan would not have helped the situation in the country.
“There are some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers. But if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now. There is no chance that one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would have made any difference,” said Biden.
Biden said he believes it’s wrong to ask American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.
“The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down. They would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them,” he said.
Despite criticism, Biden says he doesn't regret his decision to end America's warfighting in Afghanistan.
“I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss," said Biden. "This is not in our national security interest. It is not what the American people want. It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.”