President Biden speaks on Afghanistan collapse: what was said?
In a White House speech delivered on Monday, the President maintained that he has no regrets about the US withdrawal and blamed the Afghan military for succumbing so quickly.
On Monday afternoon President Joe Biden delivered his first public remarks on the situation in Afghanistan after Taliban forces retook the capital of Kabul and appear to have regained control of the country.
The Taliban offensive came as the American armed forces were in the middle of its withdrawal from the nation, bringing to an end a 20-year military engagement in Afghanistan. Biden returned from Camp David to give a pre-written speech from the White House, after which he declined to answer any questions.
Here’s three key takeaways from Biden’s Afghanistan address…
War in Afghanistan was never about “nation-building”
Biden began his address with a bit of a history lesson on US involvement in Afghanistan, dating back to the post-9/11 invasion in 2001. He maintained that the two sole aims at that time were to capture those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and to prevent Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists.
We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11, 2001—and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.— President Biden (@POTUS) August 16, 2021
We did that—a decade ago.
Our mission was never supposed to be nation building.
He said that, while the “rapid collapse” of the Afghan government “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” the US mission in Afghanistan was “never supposed to be nation-building”.
Criticises Afghan military for succumbing to Taliban so quickly
One of the most controversial elements of Biden’s address will be the comments aimed at the Afghan military, who he claimed were “not willing to fight themselves".
He said: "It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of the people."
Biden: "American troops cannot and should not be fighting and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight themselves"— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) August 16, 2021
He spoke about the bravery of the US forces currently engaged in the evacuation process to get Americans and Afghan allies out of the country as quickly as possible, adding that his administration had made clear that any Taliban interruption to that effort would be met with the strongest response.
He said: "Our troops are working to secure the airfield and ensure continued operation of both military and civilian flights... Over the coming days we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working out in Afghanistan."
Insists that he has no regrets over the manner of US withdrawal
The manner of the US withdrawal from the country will undoubtedly be the focus of much scrutiny for weeks and months to come, with some commentators already arguing that the President left the Afghan people without adequate protection in the face of a rapid Taliban offensive.
"How many more lives—American lives—is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?"— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 16, 2021
Thank you President Biden for learning from past mistakes and for clearly articulating the costs of endless war. pic.twitter.com/u3WSuDEYbh
However he maintained that he has no regrets about the course of action taken: “The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on the agreement to drawdown our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat and lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
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