Biden defends US withdrawal from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Tuesday strongly rejected criticism of his decision to end the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan...


WASHINGTON – President Biden on Tuesday strongly rejected criticism of his decision to end the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan, hailing what he called the “extraordinary success” of the Kabul evacuation and declaring the end of an era in which the United States uses the military power to “remake other countries”.

Speaking to the nation less than a week later a terrorist attack killed 13 soldiers at Kabul airport in a chaotic rush to leave the country, Mr Biden said the costs to the United States would have been even higher if he had allowed the nation to remain mired for years in a civil war that has been going on for years. decades. In plain words, he asserted the only alternative the start that he oversaw was another escalation of the war.

“When I hear that we could have, should have continued the so-called low-intensity effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our military, at low cost,” Biden said in the 26 minute speech, “I don’t think enough people understand how much we asked of the 1% of this country who put on this uniform. “

“There is nothing mediocre, low risk or low cost in a war,” he continued. “It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan.

The president delivered his remarks just under 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban from power in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and just a day after the last American soldiers and diplomats left the country, Which one is once again under Taliban rule.

Mr Biden said he believed with “all my heart” that he had made a wise decision. But he looked defiant as he sought to counter a torrent of criticism from Democrats and Republicans – and some families of soldiers killed in Kabul last week – for his handling of the withdrawal.

The president refused to offer any sort of mea culpa on Tuesday, even as the Taliban celebrated their “independence” from America with gunfire in the streets of Kabul.

Instead, the president sought to justify his handling of the final weeks of the war, claiming that the U.S. military and its diplomats deserve credit and thanks for transporting more than 120,000 Americans and Afghan allies in the face of the takeover of the Taliban and terrorist threats to ISIS-K, a subsidiary of the Islamic State.

Mr Biden expressed deep remorse for the loss of life in the airport explosions last Thursday, including dozens of Afghans, but dismissed the argument that his administration should – or could have – perform the final withdrawal in a “more orderly manner.” By evacuating people earlier, before the Taliban takeover of the country was complete.

“I disagree with respect,” said Mr Biden, at one point slapping his finger at the lectern and delivering a sense of justified outrage at the questioning of critics from Capitol Hill and others. people outside the administration.

At the heart of Mr. Biden’s argument is the bet that Americans – a majority of whom say they are in favor of ending the war – as well as historians will deem his decision to withdraw his troops as the only acceptable one, given the situation on the ground. when he takes up his post at the start of the year.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a central campaign promise, and White House officials believe a majority of voters will reward the president for following through on what he said he would do.

Mr Biden presented himself as a leader who followed his only path through a thicket of bad choices, blaming the Afghan army and his presidential predecessor, Donald J. Trump, who struck a deal with the Taliban last year which called on the United States to withdraw completely by May. He said the United States had “no vital interest in Afghanistan other than preventing an attack on the American homeland” and that the war should have ended a decade earlier.

“It was the choice, the real choice between leaving or stepping up,” Mr. Biden said, his voice rising frequently to become a sort of scream within. “I was not going to prolong this war forever.”

In making this argument, Mr. Biden offered a glimpse of a different US foreign policy in the post 9/11 world. He said he would avoid ground wars with large troop deployments, instead favoring a strategy more guided by economic and cybersecurity competition with China and Russia and focused on countering threats with military technology that allows strikes against terrorists without having large contingents of troops based on the ground. in a place like Afghanistan.

Mr Biden called it a “new era” in the use of American power in which the United States would no longer seek to reshape its rivals as three previous presidents have attempted to do in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said “the world is changing” and American leadership must change with it.

“As we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our nation over the past two decades, we must learn from our mistakes,” he said.

He suggested two lessons: define missions with “clear and achievable goals” and stay focused on core US national security interests.

But neither the president nor his aides have admitted to making any mistakes in the way they ended the war, other than placing their faith in an Afghan army which Mr Biden said. had not turned out to be a “powerful adversary” for the Taliban. Instead, Mr Biden directly took issue with the idea that the United States could have made a more orderly exit or started the evacuations earlier.

“Imagine, if we had started the evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American soldiers and evacuating over 120,000 people in the midst of the civil war, there would still have been a rush to the airport, a of confidence in control. government, and that would always have been a very difficult and dangerous mission, ”he said.

Mr. Biden admitted that “about 100 to 200” Americans who wish to leave Afghanistan were left behind when the last troops withdrew. But he said the United States would continue to make diplomatic efforts to help them leave in the days to come.

“The bottom line,” he insisted, “is that there is no evacuation at the end of a war that you can wage without the kind of complexities, challenges and threats. that we have been faced with. Nothing.”

In his speech, the president said his new approach to managing the world would not lead to Mr. Trump’s America First kind of isolationism.

“We will continue to stand up for the human rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, just as we stand up for women and girls around the world,” Biden said.

And he played down the mess of the US exit from Afghanistan, offering claims that critics say broaden the truth.

He said officials had always assumed that the Afghan national security forces would be a strong adversary for the Taliban. Indeed, many intelligence assessments inside the government, as well as outside experts, had said for years that the Afghan forces were proving weak and ineffective.

Mr. Biden also boasted that his administration had reached out “19 times” to Americans living in Afghanistan and offered them “several warnings” to leave the country as the Taliban approached. But he didn’t mention the many times his administration rejected advice from human rights groups, lawmakers and others to start evacuations earlier.

The president presented the final departure of the country from Afghanistan as a moral necessity, stressing his refusal to sacrifice the lives of more US military personnel in a war that has long strayed from its original purpose. But the cost of that moral clarity was high, even in the end: 13 other servicemen lost as the United States rushed to evacuate the Americans and their allies.

Mr Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died during the evacuation mission.

“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that we can never repay, but we should never, never, never forget. “

For more than two weeks, the hasty exit of troops from Afghanistan, the chaos and violence around the airport, have diverted the White House from the president’s national agenda.

Mr Biden’s speech comes as White House officials hope to end a difficult episode for his presidency and focus on ongoing national crises – including the Delta variant wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the following the destructive path of Hurricane Ida across the Gulf Coast.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday that Mr Biden would soon turn to pressure in Congress to pass key provisions of his multibillion-dollar economic program, including major spending for infrastructure and social services, as well as to directly address the pandemic and the concerns of parents of returning children.

“There are a whole host of issues that he is eager to communicate,” Ms. Psaki said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden defends US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Biden defends US withdrawal from Afghanistan
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