Washington/Aug,17: US President Joe Biden said on Monday that he stands “squarely behind his decision” to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan as he blamed the Afghan leadership for giving in to the Taliban without any fight.
He described the images coming out of Afghanistan as “gut-wrenching”.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US 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 said in his address to the nation.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So, what 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 US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision,” the US president said.He said American troops cannot be dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.
“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,” he said.
“We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force, something the Taliban doesn’t have. The Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” Biden said.
Coming back to the White House from the presidential resort of Camp David in Maryland, he said the US gave them every tool they could need.
“There are some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers. But if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that one year, one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of US military boots on the ground would have made any difference,” he said.
“And here’s what I believe to my core. It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down,” he added.
Recalling his meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and telephonic conversations in July, Biden said, “We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight its civil wars after the US military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.” “We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that. I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. But obviously, he was wrong,” he said.
Biden asserted that he will not repeat the mistakes the US has made in the past, mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of America, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of US forces.
“Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore,” he said.
“I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground, working to support the Afghan people, for those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, and for Americans who have fought and served in the country, serve our country in Afghanistan,” he said.