As chaos unfolds, the president said keeping U.S. troops on the ground longer would have made no difference.
Facing an avalanche of criticism for the devolving situation in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden delivered a resolute defense Monday of withdrawing U.S. troops there: “I stand squarely behind my decision.” Here’s what you need to know about Biden’s response and the latest in the war-torn country.
“Never a good time to withdraw”:
“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,” the President said as he acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” scenes in Afghanistan. Biden explained that America’s mission there was always about counter-terrorism rather than “nation-building,” and therefore he couldn’t in good faith escalate the conflict further by fruitlessly extending U.S. military occupation.
“We gave them every tool they could need“:
Biden pointed to the resources America has funneled to Afghanistan — totaling more than $1 trillion — in an effort to create political stability, explaining that the U.S. gave Afghans “every chance to determine their own future.” But now, he said, it must be up to the Afghan government to take the lead. He added that America’s competitors, like Russia and China, would “love nothing more” than to see the U.S. continue to pour resources into Afghanistan, but Biden refuses to pass this decades-long conflict on to yet another American president.
Why evacuations didn’t begin sooner:
While Biden admitted the Talbian’s takeover of Afghanistan “did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” he nonetheless faced criticism that the generally accepted foresight of this conflict meant the U.S. should have worked faster and sooner to safely remove American personnel and those of our allies. Biden put part of that blame on the Afghan government, who he says “discouraged” a mass exodus that could provoke a “crisis of confidence.”
This week, 6,000 American troops are expected in Afghanistan to maintain security amid further evacuations. Biden also promised a “swift and forceful” response to the Taliban if they disrupt the process or attack U.S. personnel — but that won’t mean a prolonged, continued presence in the country.
Watch Biden’s full remarks on the Afghanistan withdrawal below: