WASHINGTON — Amid growing criticism over the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden on Monday defended his decision to withdraw troops from the country and acknowledged its collapse was quicker than expected.
Speaking from the White House on Monday, Biden defended his decision and blamed the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its military for allowing the Taliban to take over.
“Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country; the Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden said. “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”
Biden argued that he was faced with two choices that were bad either way: to either follow through with the withdrawal of troops or keep the war going and escalate the conflict into its third decade and sacrifice more American lives.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.”
The President’s remarks come after the Taliban made significant gains over the past 48 hours, taking over Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani resigned and fleed the country, ending a 20-year experiment and effort by the U.S. to restructure the Afghan government.
Within hours of the Taliban’s takeover, Afghans grew desperate and began to flee the country. Chaos erupted at the international airport as several Afghans flooded the tarmac and clung to a U.S. Air Force plane as it was taking off. In other videos, those people appeared to fall to their death once the plane was in the sky.
Biden admitted his administration was caught off-guard by the Taliban’s rapid gain. Over the weekend, he sent a total of 6,000 troops to Afghanistan to help with evacuations and the U.S. embassy.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said. He insisted his administration was prepared for all scenarios but said the U.S. cannot help if the Afghan government and military were unwilling to defend their own country.
“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,” he said.
Biden placed blame on former President Donald Trump, who motioned to withdraw troops last year and that left Biden’s hands tied.
The President closed by positioning himself as a leader who was willing to make the difficult call to leave Afghanistan, despite the backlash and criticism that came with it.
“I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me,” he said. “I’m deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America’s war-fighting in Afghanistan.”