Biden points finger at Afghanistan officials and Trump as he stands behind decision to withdraw troops
Posted on August 16th, 2021

John Bowden Courtesy Independent

President Joe Biden characterised the US mission in Afghanistan as accomplished on Monday, even as the Afghan government collapsed in the face of advancing Taliban militants in Kabul.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Joe Biden speaks on Monday about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s conquest of the country. - AP

© AP

President Joe Biden speaks on Monday about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s conquest of the country.- AP

In a national address called by the White House in the hours after Kabul fell to the Taliban and as videos showed a chaotic evacuation of US personnel from the city’s airport, Mr Biden said that he stands squarely behind” his decision, explaining that the only alternative was a return to all-out war with the Taliban.PauseAd 00:07 – up next “Biden Stands Behind Decision To Withdraw”Loaded: 0.00%Unmute0Biden Stands Behind Decision To Withdraw

Fault for the fall of Afghanistan’s government was laid on the shoulders of former President Donald Trump’s administration for signing a deal with the Taliban that began the military withdrawal and set a timeline for the US exit, as well as Afghan officials who he argued lacked the will” to fight for their country.

We severely degraded Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” Mr Biden said, adding, our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building.”

As president, I’m adamant that we fight the threats we face today, not yesterday,” he continued.

Adding of the rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s US-supported government, Mr Biden said that in many cases, the country’s civilian and military forces simply gave up” rather than resisting a Taliban takeover.

The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” the president admitted.

But, he asserted, [w]e gave them every tool they need” to resist the Taliban.

The situation at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport remains under US control, the president said, where US forces continue to evacuate both US personnel and Afghan civilians with ties to the American military and civilian authorities, including those who served as translators and other aides.

We have made it clear to the Taliban: if they disrupt our operation … we will defend our people with devastating force, if necessary,” Mr Biden vowed.

Once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We will end America’s longest-running war, after nearly 20 years of bloodshed,” he continued.

US forces at the airport will continue to evacuate both thousands of Afghan civilians who wish to leave as well as US personnel from the embassy, who Mr Biden said were now consolidated” at the airport.

The president gave no mention to reports that US generals had met with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, and secured an agreement to allow the evacuations to continue unhindered, indicating only that his administration would defend those at the airport with deadly force.

He also attempted to battle critics who slammed the frantic nature of the evacuations, asserting that officials with the now-ousted government had requested that evacuations not begin sooner to prevent a crisis of confidence in President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. Mr Ghani fled the country on Sunday, reportedly for Tajikistan.

His address followed the shocking scenes that unfolded in videos on social media and news channels throughout Sunday and early Monday as thousands of Afghans crowded the airport in the hopes of making it out on a commercial flight or US military aircraft. In one video, at least a dozen people are seen physically clinging to the side of a military AC-130 attempting to depart.

At least one shooting has already reportedly occurred, with US forces allegedly firing on two armed individuals in an incident early on Monday that occurred as massive crowds were overwhelming the airport. It wasn’t clear if the individuals had any links to the Taliban, which as of yet has not made a serious effort to stop the evacuations.

The Biden administration has deployed thousands of US troops to coordinate the evacuations of US personnel and others from the country, and added to that number on Sunday as the Afghan government dissolved.

Over Sunday and early Monday, his administration’s top officials tried to distance events in Kabul from imagery of the US defeat in Vietnam, which Mr Biden himself had conjured in July when predicting that diplomats would not be airlifted from the grounds of the roof of the US embassy, a scene that essentially played out in the Afghan capital on Sunday.

At the same time, he denied an assertion by a reporter that his own intelligence agencies had concluded that it was likely” the Afghan government would fall.

In interviews on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that this is not Saigon”, arguing that the US had not asked the Taliban for anything”.

The defences provoked stinging criticism from many in the media, who noted that the administration had no explanation for why it could not foresee the quick victory of the Taliban.

America’s longest military conflict has cost the US more than $2.2 trillion over the past 19 years, and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,400 American service members as well as tens of thousands of Afghans. Some 456 Britons also lost their lives during the conflict.

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