President Joe Biden defended his decision to remove troops from Afghanistan on Monday, saying the Taliban’s swift takeover after US soldiers left demonstrated how the 20-year effort to establish an Afghan fighting force had failed.
“I am adamant about my decision. After 20 years of experience, I’ve learned the hard way that there is never a good time to withdraw US soldiers “Biden stated this in remarks delivered from the White House’s East Room.
Returning to Washington after spending the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland, Biden delivered his first public comments since the Taliban completed their takeover Sunday, only two weeks after their offensive began.
Biden’s remarks came amid mounting criticism of how his administration has handled the quickly deteriorating situation in the country, which descended into chaos as the militant group captured Kabul and touched off mass evacuations across the city as civilians and government officials tried to find a way out of the country.
The president admitted that “this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” but reiterated his core belief that ending American involvement was the right and responsible thing to do.
Afghan leaders, Biden said, gave up and fled the country while the U.S.-backed military melted away. He said he had received strong reassurances from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that his security forces would fight the Taliban — but they did not.
“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.”
“I know my decision will be criticized, but i would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to” another president, he said.
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan was “never supposed to be nation building,” but rather to merely degrade the Taliban’s ability to aid in launching terrorist attacks, he asserted.
“I am president of the United States and the buck stops with me,” Biden said. “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America’s war-fighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counter-terrorism mission there and in other parts of the world.”
Months ago, the president set Aug. 31 as the deadline to have U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Recently, experts and officials have been caught by surprise by how quickly the Taliban were capturing territory on their way to Kabul.
Former President Donald Trump began the process of withdrawing soldiers from Afghanistan early last year, and later stated that he hoped to have US troops home by Christmas 2020.
Biden continued to push for peace talks with the Taliban and initially stated that forces would be out of Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist events that triggered the war.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has become more active in its military objectives, seizing a number of provincial capitals while diplomatic talks have faltered.