UNITED STATES: U.S. President Joe Biden has defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and at the same time, he takes responsibility for the bloody, often chaotic withdrawal and said it should mark a new era in U.S. foreign policy, relying less on military muscle.
Staying longer was not an option, Biden said confronting his critics about the handling of the withdrawal, in an address to the nation from the White House 24 hours after the end of a 20-year U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” the president said.
He celebrated the evacuation of 124,000 civilians wishing to flee the Taliban regime in the 17 days following the fall of the Afghan capital and said it was time to “turn the page” on the U.S. role abroad, pointing to a less interventionist future.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops has led to Taliban militants returning to power and celebrating what they call a victory.
Facing reporters in the state dining room, Biden looked into the camera and said he took responsibility for what he insisted was a “wise” decision. He admitted that his administration had not foreseen the rapid speed of the Afghan army’s collapse, but also made clear there was plenty more blame to go around, singling out his predecessor and the former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.
He pointed out he had inherited the Doha agreement signed with the Taliban, from Donald Trump’s departing administration. According to which, the May 1 US withdrawal from Afghanistan was promised, however, was not fulfilled on any political settlement inside Afghanistan, and it allowed the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Biden said those released fighters “including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan”.
“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,” Biden said.
“So we’re left with a simple decision: either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren’t leaving and commit tens of thousands more troops, going back to war.”
“I don’t think enough people understand how much we’ve asked of the 1% of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defence of our nation,” he said, in the most emotive passage of the speech, in which Biden invoked his son Beau, who had served in Iraq and died in 2015 of a brain tumour.
“We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago,” he said.
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden said, adding: “The war in Afghanistan is now over.”