President Joe Biden told ABC News’s George Stephanopolous on Wednesday that he would have withdrawn troops from Afghanistan regardless of whether President Donald Trump had made a deal to pull American security forces from the region, complicating the White House’s messaging, which pointed the finger for the messy withdrawal squarely at the former administration.
As The Daily Wire reported Wednesday, Biden denied any failures in the Afghan withdrawal and refused to acknowledge horrifying images coming from Kabul of Afghans and Americans desperate to flee a dissolving country.
“So, you don’t think this could have been handled, this [exit] could have been handled better in any way? No mistakes?” Stephanopolous asked
“No, I, I, I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look, but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” Biden responded. “I don’t know how that happened.”
The president’s supporters have suggested that President Donald Trump’s negotiated timeline, which had troops withdrawing from the country on May 1st, made it difficult for President Joe Biden to withdraw from Afghanistan without complications, leading to the unfolding disaster that has gripped the country since Sunday, when the Taliban appeared at Kabul’s city gates.
Biden, who already extended the troop presence until August 31st, told Stephanopolous that he would have withdrawn the troops regardless of Trump’s agreement — or even if there had been no agreement.
“I got into office, George. Less than two months after I was elected to office, I was sworn in, all of a sudden, I have a May 1 deadline. I have a May 1 deadline. I got one of two choices. Do I say we’re staying? And do you think we would not have to put a hell of a lot more troops? B– you know, we had hundreds– we had tens of thousands of troops there before. Tens of thousands,” Biden complained, echoing Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s explanations from Sunday.
“Do you think we woulda — that we would’ve just said, ‘No problem. Don’t worry about it, we’re not gonna attack anybody. We’re okay?’ In the meantime, the Taliban was takin’ territory all throughout the country in the north and down in the south, in the [Pashtun] area,” Biden went on.
“So would you have withdrawn troops like this even if President Trump had not made that deal with the Taliban?” Stephanopolous responded, shocked.
“I would’ve tried to figure out how to withdraw those troops, yes, because look, George. There is no good time to leave Afghanistan. Fifteen years ago would’ve been a problem, 15 years from now. The basic choice is am I gonna send your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan in perpetuity?” Biden answered.
He then suggested that, given that there was no “good” time to pull out from Afghanistan, that the settled timeline should be followed.
“No one can name for me a time when this would end. And what constitutes defeat of the Taliban? What constitutes defeat? Would we have left then? Let’s say they surrender like before. OK. Do we leave then? Do you think anybody– the same people who think we should stay would’ve said, ‘No, good time to go?’ We spent over $1 trillion, George, 20 years. There was no good time to leave,” he said.
The admission is notable because it implies that regardless of Trump’s deal — and, perhaps, regardless of the advice of national security and military experts who were helping to plot the American withdrawal — Biden was dead-set on bringing troops out of Afghanistan — a decision in line with his long-held thoughts on the matter. Biden opposed the surge, as the Atlantic noted on Thursday, and has been opposed to engagement in Afghanistan and elsewhere for decades.
The admission also puts Biden’s approach to the matter of Afghan suffering into context, as he noted in the interview, was built into the withdrawal plan.