US President Joe Biden said on Monday he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan despite searing images of chaos in Kabul that exposed the bounds folks power and plunged him into the worst crisis of his presidency.
Breaking his silence on the US pullout after scenes of bedlam dominated newscast channels for days, Biden blamed the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan on Afghan political leaders who fled the country and therefore the unwillingness of the US-trained Afghan army to fight the militant group.
In pictures: the autumn of Kabul
He didn’t recoil from heaping criticism at the Western-backed government that was overthrown in Kabul, saying US troops couldn’t defend a nation whose leaders “gave up and fled,” as did Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
“We gave them every chance to work out their own future. We couldn’t provide them with the desire to fight for that future,” Biden said, adding he could not ask US soldiers to risk their lives within the country, 20 years on.
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never alleged to are nation-building.”
He warned Taliban leaders they might face “devastating force” should they interfere with the US pullout.
Biden was forced to send US troop reinforcements to Kabul to make sure a secure withdrawal of yank diplomatic personnel and civilians also as Afghan citizens who worked with the US and will face reprisals.
The panicked evacuation, coming weeks after Biden predicted the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan wasn’t inevitable, has dented America’s image on the worldwide stage even as Biden has sought to emphasize to world leaders that “America is back” after former president Donald Trump’s tumultuous four years.
The pullout has also raised fears that militant groups like Al Qaeda could reconstitute under Taliban rule.
Biden, rejecting harsh criticism of his Afghan policy from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, some former generals and human rights groups, decided in defending his withdrawal from a 20-year war that endured through four presidencies.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said during a televised speech at the White House. “After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never an honest time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there.”
Biden said he found a number of the scenes of chaos in Kabul “gut wrenching” but that he didn’t start moving out evacuees sooner because President Ashraf Ghani didn’t need a mass exodus.
Political risks unclear
He acknowledged that the Taliban’s speed in retaking the country was unexpected. The rapid advance stunned American officials who predicted that the Afghan army would either repel the militants or hold them off for months.
“The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden said.
He also apportioned criticism to his Republican predecessor, Trump, whose administration negotiated a affect the Taliban that Biden said left the group “in the strongest position militarily since 2001”.
Critics of Biden have focused on the way the US withdrawal is being administered , as video showed Afghans flooding runways at the Kabul airport and desperately trying to grab the fuselage of a US plane rolling on the tarmac.
“The president’s failure to acknowledge his disastrous withdrawal provides no comfort to Americans or our Afghan partners whose lives persevere the balance,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney said during a tweet.
Biden singled out for criticism the 2 main Afghan leaders, Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the country’s High Council for National Reconciliation, saying that they had “flatly refused” his advice to hunt a political settlement with the Taliban.
“How more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you’ve got me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s war , when Afghan troops will not? what percentage more lives — American lives — is it worth? what percentage endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?” Biden asked.
On Monday night, Biden authorised up to $500 million from an emergency fund to satisfy “unexpected urgent” refugee needs stemming from things in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants, the White House said.
The us is preparing to start evacuating thousands of Afghan applicants for special immigration visas (SIVs) who risk retaliation from Taliban insurgents because they worked for the United States government .
Whether Biden will face a long-term political risk for Afghanistan is unclear.
Foreign policy doesn’t typically play a serious role in US elections. Many Americans have expressed support for Trump’s and Biden’s decision to go away Afghanistan, America’s longest war.
But Republican Representative Mike McCaul signaled his party might attempt to frame the Afghan chaos as a national security issue that creates the us more susceptible to a surprise attack .
“I think it’s getting to taint this presidency, to an outsized degree, on national security,” he said.
The US and allies invaded Afghanistan following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on ny and Washington and toppled the Taliban.
Biden also said his decision was a results of the commitment he made to American troops that he wasn’t getting to ask them to still risk their lives for a war that ought to have ended way back .
“Our leaders did that in Vietnam once I came as (a) young man. i will be able to not roll in the hay in Afghanistan,” he said.
“I know my decision are going to be criticised but i might rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to a different president.”
Taliban fighters have appropriated checkpoints across Kabul, and militants with rifles slung over their shoulders walked through the streets of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified district that houses most embassies and international organisations.
Ghani’s departure on Sunday finalised the collapse of his government. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Taliban sought to reassure the international community that Afghans shouldn’t fear them, with co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar saying the militants needed to point out that they might “serve our nation and ensure security”.
China was the primary major nation to flag support for the Taliban, stating it had been ready for “friendly relations”. Both Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.
The State Department said any US ties with a Taliban government would depend upon their respect of human rights and rejection of extremism.