Biden on Afghanistan: There was ‘never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces’

By , KNX 1070 Newsradio

President Joe Biden spoke at the White House Monday on the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country. Biden defended his decision to withdraw troops, saying he would not “double down” on sending Americans to fight a “civil war” in a foreign country.

Biden’s comments on choosing to remove U.S. forces echoed his earlier support of ending America’s longest war with a cost of upwards of $2 trillion.

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Biden said Monday the U.S. should be focused on “counterterrorism, not counter-insurgency or nation-building.” He similarly said in July of the nearly 20-year war that the U.S. could not afford "to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago."

U.S. troops were meant to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Aug. 31,  2021, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. However, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the planned withdrawal. Insurgents captured all of the country’s major cities in mere days.

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The Associated Press reported that Kabul's main airport turned to chaos Monday as thousands of Afghans rushed to try and flee the country. Some held onto a military jet as it took off. At least seven people died, according to U.S. officials.

Biden appeared to point to a lack of will among the Afghan civilian government and military forces as the reason for the Taliban’s quick ascension, saying U.S. forces “cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight themselves.”

“We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the president’s decision to withdraw troops, saying it would hurt U.S. allies.

“We’re playing a limited, limited, but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simploy pick up our ball and go home,” he said.

However, McConnell previously praised Trump’s earlier negotiated deadline of May 1 for U.S. troop withdrawal.

Biden also referenced Trump’s deal in his Monday press conference. He said he inherited a deal and had to make the choice whether to honor it or risk the lives of additional American forces.

“The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban,” said Biden.

Instead, Biden suggested that the threat of terrorism to the U.S. was not isolated to Afghanistan and that the U.S. could fight those threats without a force based in the country.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made a similar point Monday. Sullivan said, “We [the U.S.] can fight terrorism effectively without having a large military footprint on the ground.”

“We are going to hold the Taliban accountable to not allowing Al Qaeda to have a safe haven there.”

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