President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan on Monday, Aug. 16, his first words since the Taliban seized control of the government on Sunday, Aug. 15.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” Biden said during a speech at the White House.
As chaos swept areas of Kabul and the civilian government collapsed, the president’s words came amid rising criticism of his administration’s handling of the crisis, CNBC reported.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” Biden said of the Taliban’s lightning offensive, which took over the entire country in less than two weeks.
Biden claimed that Afghan officials, including former President Ashraf Ghani, had told him that the Afghan forces would fight the insurgents.
Last month, Biden claimed that the Taliban taking control the nation once the U.S. had left was “not inevitable.” Biden went on to say that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
However, on August 15, Joe Biden is shocked at how rapidly Afghanistan’s government collapsed to a militant group.
Biden stated that his resolve had not faltered, and that the previous week had effectively demonstrated that 20 years of conflict have failed to develop an Afghan army capable of defending the government or a government willing to stay in the country as the Taliban approached.
“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,” Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” he added.
“I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to a future president,” Biden said.
According to USA Today, as the Taliban raced toward Kabul in days, Afghan security forces dissolved. Protesters shut down the airport’s access.
Hundreds of people ran alongside and in front of a military transport plane, attempting to stop it from taking flight. As the plane climbed, some people clung to it and died.
The decision on whether to formally recognize the Taliban leadership as Afghanistan’s legitimate government would be influenced by developments in the coming weeks and months, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
“It will depend upon the actions of the Taliban,” said Price. “We are watching closely … the world is watching closely.”
“A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people, that doesn’t harbor terrorists and that protects the basic rights of its people, including the basic, fundamental rights of half its population, its women and girls, that is a government that we would be able to work with,” he said.
Prior to Biden’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,( R-Ky.,) termed the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan “an embarrassment for our country and a victory for terrorists around the world.”
McConnell said the United States “abandoned the women and children of Afghanistan to these barbarians” and left behind thousands of Afghan allies. “We turned our backs on our friends and left the country in chaos,” said the Senate’s top Republican.
Republicans and others criticized Biden for pointing fingers too often and not taking responsibility for the Afghan mess.
“Biden’s surrender strengthens our terrorist enemies, hands them a massive new caliphate, abandons our allies & ensures a longer, costlier war for years to come,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
In a brief statement, Trump said, “It’s not that we left Afghanistan. It’s the grossly incompetent way we left!”
Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called for Biden to “come out of hiding, and take charge of the mess he created.”
“President Biden needs to man up,” Sasse tweeted.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader from California, was equally blunt.
“Mr. President, do your job and address the nation,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said.