President Joe Biden took full responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan on Monday while simultaneously claiming that he was forced into pulling U.S. military support for the Afghan government by former President Donald Trump.
Biden addressed the nation directly for the first time since leaving on vacation to Camp David, the presidential retreat, last week and the fall of Kabul and the Afghan government on Sunday. The Taliban blitzed through Afghanistan, toppling multiple major cities, seizing military installations, and toppling the Afghan government and military in a matter of days.
“When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. 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,” Biden said. “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 to either follow through on that agreement, or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no ceasefire 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,” he continued. “There was only the 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, lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden stated. “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.”
Biden went on to say that the Afghanistan government fell “more quickly than we anticipated.” He evaded taking responsibility for the chaos, however, claiming that the chaos that engulfed Kabul — and the frenzied evacuation operation to get American soldiers, citizens, personnel, and Afghan refugees out of the country — was unavoidable because of the incompetence of the Afghan government and its military.
“We were cleared-eyed about the risk, but I always promised the American people that I would be straight with you. The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” Biden said. “So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, some without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce 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.”