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16 Aug, 2021 20:03

Biden blames Taliban’s success & last-minute evacuation from Afghanistan on failures of Ghani’s government

Biden blames Taliban’s success & last-minute evacuation from Afghanistan on failures of Ghani’s government

US President Joe Biden has blamed the ousted Afghan government for not fighting the Taliban and defended the hasty withdrawal of troops and diplomats after briefly interrupting his vacation to address the situation in Afghanistan.

Biden came back to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David on Monday, for a special televised address about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that has since resulted in total collapse of the government in Kabul and a Taliban takeover.

He opened up with a fiery defense of the US invasion of Afghanistan, celebrating the destruction of Al-Qaeda and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, though the latter took place in Pakistan almost ten years after the invasion.

However, the president then condemned the “nation building” that the US had engaged in for much of the two-decade war, and defended his decision to pull out now.

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

Another “20 years” could not have built a nation, he said, and “no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, secure, united Afghanistan.”

Biden blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for making a deal with the Taliban to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan by May 1 – which his administration only partially repudiated, to extend the deadline through August 31. He also blamed the US-backed Afghan government for failing to fight against the Taliban, even after Washington spent tens of billions of dollars creating an army bigger than that of some NATO allies.

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“We gave them every tool they could need,” Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them, was the will to fight for that future.”

Without that, no amount of length of US presence wouldn’t have made any difference, he argued. “It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own forces would not.”

The president showed no sympathy for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who departed the country shortly after Taliban militants entered Kabul. “Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country,” he said, suggesting that Ghani’s abdication, coupled with the swift surrender of the US-funded Afghan National Army, “reinforces that ending US military involvement now was the right decision.”

Biden also blamed Ghani for the last-minute US evacuation, claiming that Ghani pressured the Americans into staying in place until the bitter end, to avoid triggering “a crisis of confidence” in his leadership.

“If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country while the chips were down, they would never have done so while US troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.”

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While he did not take questions from the reporters present, in his 20-minute address Biden mainly defended himself from the hypothetical that withdrawing from Afghanistan was wrong to begin with – something very few Americans have actually argued.

Trump reacted to Biden’s speech with a two-sentence statement on Monday afternoon. “It’s not that we left Afghanistan. It’s the grossly incompetent way we left!” the former president said. 

Biden painted himself as a brave leader taking an unpopular stand. “I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war,” he said at one point, adding that he promised to end America’s longest foreign war during the 2020 campaign. 

“It’s been hard and messy, and yes far from perfect, I’ve honored that commitment,” he said.

I am president of the United States, and the buck stops with me.

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As for the situation on the ground in Kabul, Biden offered no deviation from the plan currently in place. The US military, he said, were securing Kabul Airport, while the US Embassy had been “safely” shut down and diplomats transferred to the airport. 6,000 troops have been authorized for deployment to protect the evacuation effort.

While the airport is thronged with crowds of Afghans and foreigners looking for a ride out of the country and civilian flights have been halted, Biden claimed that US troops were restoring both civilian and military service. He also claimed that the US diplomatic mission to Afghanistan had been “consolidated” at the airport after the abandonment of the embassy.

“Over the coming days we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the US would help allied personnel and Afghan refugees who worked with the US military and embassy get out of the country.

“If [the Taliban] attack our personnel or disrupt our operation...we will defend our people with devastating force if necessary,” Biden warned. Once the evacuation is complete, Biden said that the US would “end America’s longest war.”

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Biden departed for Camp David last Thursday and was scheduled to stay there until Wednesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki took the week off, according to out-of-office responses to email inquiries by media outlets over the weekend. With almost all of Afghanistan under Taliban control now, and the evacuation from Kabul airport interrupted by crowds of Afghans desperate to climb on board the departing planes, the administration’s plans appear to have changed. 

However, the trip to make the Afghan speech might have been only a minor detour for Biden, with the FAA reportedly issuing a flight restriction order over his home in Wilmington, Delaware for the rest of the week. 

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