'Never a Good Time to Withdraw': Biden Says 20 More Years Wouldn't Convince Afghans to Fight Taliban
20:10 GMT 16.08.2021 (Updated: 20:50 GMT 16.08.2021)
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday that US forces would defend the Kabul airport, where 2,500 US troops have already arrived to oversee the evacuation of US and allied forces, equipment, and civilian personnel, including Afghans who cooperated with the NATO occupation.
Speaking after the US-backed Afghan government folded and fled the country over the weekend, US President Joe Biden said Monday that another 20 years of US occupation of Afghanistan would not have changed the outcome so long as Afghan forces refuse to take over the US' fight against the Taliban, which has once again seized power.
Biden said he stands "squarely behind" his decision to pull US forces totally out of the country, saying “there was never a good time to withdraw."
“There is no chance that one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of US military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference," he said, adding that it was “wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.”
Biden said his national security team was moving to executive plans "put in place in response to every contingency, including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now," which he said included deploying 6,000 troops to assist in the evacuation of American and allied civilians and the remainder of US assets in the country, including its embassy. However, he conceded that "this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated."
Noting the US war in Afghanistan began 20 years ago in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda, which was based in southern Afghanistan, Biden said the primary purpose of the US presence in the country was to get those who had attacked the US, not to rebuild the country or sustain a pro-US government.
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building," he said. "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 [the] American homeland.”
Instead, Biden urged that the US's primary concerns lay outside Afghanistan, including fighting terrorist groups that had "metastasized" beyond the Afghan borders, naming specifically al-Shabaab in Somalia, al-Nusra in Syria, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen - groups the US has long waged undeclared wars against under the legal guise of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that underpins the entire US War on Terror.
“Our true strategic competitors, China and Russia, would love nothing more than [for] the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars and resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely," Biden added.