U.S. president emphasizes withdrawal as ‘best decision’ for America, warns operations against terrorists will continue globally
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended the complete withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan as the “best decision for America,” claiming it marked the start of a new era in which military operations will not be used to remake other countries.
“This is the right decision. A wise decision. And the best decision for America,” he said in a televised address from the White House on his refusal to budge from an Aug. 31 deadline to exit the war-torn state. Stressing that the only options were to either leave or escalate the conflict, he said the end to America’s longest war marked a new turning point for the country.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” he said. “I take responsibility for the decision. Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn’t this have been done in a more orderly manner. I respectfully disagree,” he said.
Even if evacuations had begun in June or July, he said, “there still would have been a rush to the airport” by people wanting to leave.
Criticizing the ousted Western-backed Afghan government over its inability to fight back the Taliban’s rapid advance, he claimed this had forced the U.S. and NATO to expedite their withdrawal timeline. He also accused former president Donald Trump of tying his hands with a deal he inked with the Taliban last year.
The deal brokered by Trump authorized “the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control,” Biden said. “By the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country,” he added.
The U.S. president also sought to defense the frenzied airlift from Kabul—which saw over 120,000 people flee the country in a little under two weeks—as an “extraordinary success.” He said that no other country had accomplished this in history. “Only the United States had the capacity and the will and ability to do it,” he claimed.
But while Biden reiterated that he could not have allowed another generation of Americans to fight someone else’s war, he warned militants that posed a threat to the U.S. that they would not be spared. “We are not done with you yet,” he said to the Daesh militant group that claimed last week’s attacks at the Kabul airport that left nearly 200 people dead, including 13 U.S. soldiers.
Biden’s speech came just a few hours after U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a warning about the challenges the Taliban would face in forming a new Afghanistan government. Expressing “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country,” he said there was great risk of basic services collapsing “completely.”
He also urged the international community to provide financial support for the war-ravaged country. “I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need,” he emphasized.