WASHINGTON – President Biden on Tuesday vigorously denied criticism of his decision to end the US 20-year war in Afghanistan, hailing the “extraordinary success” of the evacuation of Kabul and declaring the end of an era in which the United States was in power Military use power to “reshape other countries”.
Speaking to the nation less than a week after a terrorist bombing killed 13 soldiers during a chaotic onslaught to leave the country at Kabul airport, Mr Biden said the cost to the United States would have been even higher, if he had allowed the nation to remain caught up in decades of civil war for years. In blunt terms, he claimed that the only alternative to the departure he was supervising was a further escalation of the war.
“As I hear, we should have continued the so-called inferior efforts in Afghanistan with low risk to our soldiers and at low cost,” said Biden in the 26-minute speech. I don’t think enough people understand how much we asked for the 1 percent of this country that wears this uniform. “
“There is nothing low, low risk, or low cost in war,” he continued. “It is time to end the war in Afghanistan.”
The president made his remarks almost 20 years after the US ousted the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks and only one day after the last American troops and diplomats left the Taliban country.
Mr. Biden stated that he “wholeheartedly” believed that he had made a wise decision. But he seemed defiant as he tried to counter a flurry of criticism from Democrats and Republicans – and from some families of soldiers killed in Kabul – for his handling of the withdrawal.
The president refused to offer any kind of mea culpa on Tuesday, despite the fact that the Taliban celebrated their “independence” from America with gunfire in the streets of Kabul.
Instead, the president tried to justify his handling of the last few weeks of the war by saying that the U.S. military and its diplomats deserve recognition and gratitude for being an offshoot of ISIS-K in the face of the Taliban takeover and terrorist threats Islamic State.
Mr Biden expressed deep regret over the loss of life in the airport explosions last Thursday, including numerous Afghans, but rejected the argument that his government should – or should have – carried out the final withdrawal in a “more orderly manner” can do “by evacuating people earlier, before the Taliban takeover of the country was complete.
“I respectfully disagree,” said Mr Biden, pounding the lectern at some point, conveying a sense of genuine outrage at the second suspicion from critics on Capitol Hill and others outside the administration.
The core of Mr. Biden’s reasoning is the wager that Americans – the majority say they support an end to the war – as well as historians, will consider his decision to withdraw troops as the only acceptable one given the situation on the ground than he did at the beginning of the war Year took office.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a key campaign promise, and White House officials believe a majority of voters will reward the president for carrying out his announcements.
Mr Biden presented himself as a leader who, through a thicket of bad decisions, took the only path available to him, accusing the Afghan Army and his predecessor to the President, Donald J. Trump, of reaching an agreement with the Taliban, who pledged to fully withdraw the United States by last May. He said the United States had “no vital interest in Afghanistan other than preventing an attack on America’s homeland” and the war should have ended a decade earlier.
“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” said Mr. Biden, his voice often becoming an inner scream of sorts. “I didn’t want to prolong this war forever.”
With this argument, Mr. Biden offered a glimpse into a different American foreign policy in the world after September 11th. He said he would avoid ground wars with large deployments of troops and instead prefer a strategy that is more oriented towards economic and cybersecurity competition with China and Russia, and that focuses on countering threats with military technology that enables attacks against terrorists without large contingents of troops are stationed 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 try to reshape its rivals as three previous presidents tried in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that “the world is changing” and that American leadership must change with it.
“As we turn the page of the foreign policy that has guided our nation for the past two decades, we must learn from our mistakes,” he said.
He proposed two lessons: setting missions with “clearly achievable goals” and focusing on the basic national security interests of the United States.
But neither the president nor his aides admitted that they had made any mistakes in ending the war, except that they were betting on an Afghan army, which, according to Mr Biden, had not turned out to be a “strong opponent” for the Taliban. Instead, Mr Biden directly questioned the idea that the United States could have made a more orderly exit or started evacuations earlier.
“Imagine if we had started evacuating in June or July, drafted thousands of American troops and evacuated more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war, there would still have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence in control. “of the government, and it would still have been a very difficult and dangerous mission,” he said.
Mr. Biden admitted that “about 100 to 200” Americans trying to get out of Afghanistan were left behind when the last of the troops withdrew. However, he said the United States would continue to make diplomatic efforts in the coming days to help them exit.
“The bottom line,” he insisted, “after a war is over, there is no evacuation that can be conducted without the kind of complexity, challenges and threats we have faced. None. “
In his speech, the president said his new approach to dealing with the world would not lead to Mr. Trump’s kind of America-first isolationism.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.
“We will continue to stand up for the basic rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, as we stand up for women and girls around the world,” said Biden.
And he downplayed the mess of the US exit from Afghanistan by making allegations that critics say are stretching the truth.
He said officials always assumed the Afghan national security forces would be a strong opponent of the Taliban. Indeed, numerous intelligence assessments within the government as well as outside experts had said for years that the Afghan armed forces were proving weak and ineffective.
Mr Biden also boasted that his government had “spoken 19 times” to Americans living in Afghanistan offering them “multiple warnings” to leave the country as the Taliban approached. However, he did not mention the number of times his government had rejected advice from human rights groups, lawmakers and others to start evacuations earlier.
The president saw the country’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan as a moral imperative, underscoring his refusal to sacrifice the lives of any other American soldiers in a war that has long since deviated from its original goal. But the price for that moral clarity was high, even in the end: 13 more soldiers were lost when the United States tried to evacuate the Americans and allies.
Mr Biden said the nation owes its thanks to the troops who were killed in the evacuation mission.
“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said. “We owe them and their families thanks, whom we can never repay, but we should never, never forget.”
The hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the chaos and violence surrounding the airport have been distracting the White House from the president’s domestic political agenda for more than two weeks.
Mr Biden’s speech comes as White House officials hope to end a difficult episode for his presidency and focus on the domestic crises ahead – including the delta variant wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the destructive path of hurricane Ida by the Gulf Coast.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that Mr Biden would soon be making a push in Congress to co-ordinate key provisions on his multi-trillion-dollar economic agenda, including major spending on infrastructure and social services addressing the pandemic directly and the concerns of parents of children going back to school.
“There are a number of topics that he would like to communicate about,” said Ms. Psaki.