2 min read.Updated: 17 Aug 2021, 02:09 AM ISTJustin Sink, Bloomberg
Biden said the US would continue to fight terrorism in Afghanistan even after the pullout
Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building," Biden said
President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Monday, fighting back against criticism of a move that pitched the country into chaos as the Taliban reasserted control.
“I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden said Monday as he addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces."
Biden said the U.S. would continue to fight terrorism in Afghanistan even after the pullout.
“The choice I had to make as your president was to follow through with that agreement, or to go back to be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season," Biden said.
Biden returned from Camp David in Maryland on Monday to a political firestorm, with the Taliban’s shocking takeover of Afghanistan and a chaotic effort to evacuate American personnel.
The developments prompted widespread criticism of his administration’s handling of the troop drawdown the president announced earlier this year. Flights leaving the Kabul airport were temporarily halted amid security breaches, as Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban swarmed U.S. military aircraft.
Biden had expressed confidence in those same security forces in recent weeks, predicting a calm and orderly withdrawal and dismissing questions about concerns within the intelligence community and military about the Taliban’s growing strength.
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building," Biden said.
Still, the president argued that the rapid deterioration of conditions in the country only underscored the futility of maintaining an armed presence in a country where an enduring military and civil society had failed to take root despite nearly two decades of U.S. intervention and hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars invested.
Administration officials are seeking to help Biden retain political support from voters who have proven wary of decades-long U.S. interventions in the Middle East. But Republicans have seized on the images from Kabul, calling them reminiscent of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi or the fall of Saigon at the conclusion of the Vietnam War and arguing the White House was responsible for the chaos.
Biden traveled back to Washington to deliver his address from a planned vacation at Camp David and in Delaware that was originally expected to extend throughout the week.