On Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden addressed the disaster that has developed in Afghanistan as the United States has attempted to evacuate Kabul. He suggested former President Trump was responsible for the crisis while simultaneously claiming it was his decision to withdraw U.S. forces.
“When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban,” Biden said. “Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just a little over three months after I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country. And the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.”
“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 in the middle of the spring fighting season,” Biden continued. “There would have been no cease-fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1. There was only a cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, and lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “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. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.”
Biden then addressed how the Afghan government fell about 90 hours after U.S. officials estimated it would fall in 90 days.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden admitted. “So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”
“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 added. “We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong. Incredibly well-equipped. A force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force, something the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”
It should be noted that much of the U.S. equipment belonging to the “incredibly well-equipped” Afghan military force is now in the hands of the Taliban and was a large factor in how rapidly the Taliban was able to take over the country.
Near the end of the speech, Biden indicated that withdrawal from Afghanistan was solely his decision, saying it was part of the platform he ran on for president – despite Biden telling Stars and Stripes in a September 2020 interview that the United States should maintain a presence of 2,000 troops in the region.
“I’m deeply saddened by the facts we now face,” Biden said. “But I do not regret my decision to end America’s war-fighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission, there and other parts of the world. Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success. Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.”
“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,” Biden continued.
“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. I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for president that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. While it’s been hard and messy and, yes, far from perfect, I’ve honored that commitment.”
“More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should’ve ended long ago,” Biden added. “Our leader did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan. I know my decision will be criticized. But I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States, yet another one, a fifth one. Because it’s the right one, it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America.”
After giving a speech addressing arguably the biggest foreign policy crisis for the United States in decades, Biden left without taking questions from reporters, and returned to Camp David for vacation.
WATCH: Joe Biden takes no questions after speech on botched Afghanistan withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/v0bouKhGes
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 16, 2021