President Joe Biden said on Monday he stood "squarely behind" his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan despite searing images of chaos in Kabul that exposed the limits of U.S. power and plunged him into the worst crisis of his presidency, Reuters reported.
Biden defends his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan
STEPANAKERT, AUGUST 17, ARTSAKHPRESS: Breaking his silence on the U.S. pullout after scenes of bedlam dominated television news channels for days, Biden blamed the Taliban's takeover in Afghanistan on Afghan political leaders who fled the country and the unwillingness of the U.S.-trained Afghan army to fight the militant group.
He warned Taliban leaders they would face "devastating force" should they interfere with the U.S. pullout. Biden was forced to send U.S. troop reinforcements to Kabul to ensure a safe withdrawal of American diplomatic personnel and civilians as well as Afghan citizens who worked with the United States and could face reprisals.
Biden was resolute in defending his withdrawal from a 20-year war that endured through four presidencies.
"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden said in a televised speech at the White House. "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 said he found some of the scenes of chaos in Kabul "gut-wrenching," but that he did not start moving out evacuees sooner because Afghan President Ashraf Ghani did not want a mass exodus.
He acknowledged that the Taliban's speed in retaking the country was unexpected.
"The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated. So what's happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight," Biden said.
Biden singled out for criticism the two main Afghan leaders, Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the country's High Council for National Reconciliation, saying they had "flatly refused" his advice to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.
"How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans - Afghanistan’s civil war, when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives - American lives - is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?" Biden asked.
Biden also said his decision was a result of the commitment he made to American troops that he was not going to ask them to continue to risk their lives for a war that should have ended long ago.
"Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as (a) young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan," he said. "I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president."