President Joe Biden finally decided to address the nation about the worsening situation in Afghanistan. As the United States continues the process of ending the 20-year-long war, the Taliban has retaken the country after two decades of being suppressed by the American military. This, combined with the reality that the withdrawal effort has not gone quite as planned, is placing the Biden administration under deeper scrutiny.
Biden Discusses Afghanistan Situation
The president opened his remarks by reminding the nation why it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. He recounted the 9/11 terrorist attacks and America’s effort to target Al Qaeda for retaliation. He said:
“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. We did that. We severely degraded Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.”
Biden obfuscated on the central point regarding the “method” of withdrawal which appears to have – at least in the short run – begun a humanitarian crisis. Instead, he appeared to have set up a straw man answering the question of further U.S. involvement in the region which has already been answered by the American people in numerous polls.
Later in the speech, Biden addressed the flawed withdrawal process for which he has been widely criticized. He seemed to be trying to deflect blame to former President Donald Trump. He referenced a deal that Trump hammered out with the Taliban that stipulated U.S. soldiers would be removed by May 1. He said:
“The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no cease fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1. There was only a cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
Biden acknowledged that he and his team did not expect the situation to deteriorate as fast as it did as the deadline for withdrawal inched closer. “We were clear-eyed about the risk. We planned for every contingency,” he said. “But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
The president then explained that one of the reasons the Taliban found it so easy to retake the country was that the Afghani government and military did not put up much of a fight. He said:
“Afghanistan political leaders gave up. They fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the development for the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”
Biden added: “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.”
To critics of his decision to end the war, Biden asked: “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war?”
Biden Remains Steadfast
The president’s comments come as the United States was forced to abandon its embassy in Kabul on Aug. 15 as Taliban forces began taking over the region. On Aug. 14, he released a statement on the matter, explaining that he “authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops” to assist with the removal of personnel and ensure that the process was “orderly and safe.” Still, as the situation became increasingly precarious, Biden was under growing pressure to address the nation.
Biden had been vacationing at Camp David over the weekend as conditions on the ground became even more dangerous. Fox News pointed out that “the U.S. is now struggling to keep the Kabul airport open for those still hoping to flee.”
The report also explained:
“The scenes at the airport are notably stark, with a flood of civilians trying to force their way onto exiting airplanes and some Afghans reportedly falling from the sky as they cling onto departing American airplanes in a desperate effort to escape the Taliban’s rule.”
Many criticized Biden for being absent from Washington, D.C., while the Taliban was sweeping large swaths of territory in only a few days. He came under fire for failing to give an in-person press briefing on the matter for six days. Former President Donald Trump issued a statement demanding that Biden resign.
Earlier this year, Biden announced the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and claimed the country was not in danger of falling to the Taliban. “The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability,” he said in July. “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy … of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”
However, developments in the region indicated Biden’s assurances were unfounded. The situation has grown closer to resembling Saigon, as several people have commented. But this particular SNAFU raises an important question: Is it too late for the Biden administration to get this process back on track?
Read more from Jeff Charles.
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