‘It’s Not True’: Biden Denies Afghanistan Will Mirror Taliban Rule Prior to 2001 US Invasion
22:34 GMT 19.08.2021 (Updated: 00:59 GMT 20.08.2021)
© AP Photo / Rahmat GulTaliban fighters stand guard on the road to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021
© AP Photo / Rahmat Gul
Over the last several days, US President Joe Biden has come under fire for the chaotic scenes unfolding in the Afghan capital of Kabul following the swift takeover by the Taliban. The American president had previously shot down claims that the militant group would manage to “overrun” Afghanistan as it has since done.
US President Joe Biden has rejected claims that Afghanistan will mirror what the Central Asian nation looked like prior to the US-led invasion that was undertaken shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Biden’s comments came during an exclusive interview on Wednesday between the American president and ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos. The pair touched on a variety of issues, but kept the main focus on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the dramatic scenes that have been emerging from the area.
Addressing the looming 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Biden stood firm and blasted claims that Afghanistan would go back to how it looked prior to the US invasion, saying that such stances were simply “not true.”
“It's not true. They're not gonna look just like they were [when] we were attacked,” Biden told Stephanopoulos. “There was a guy named Osama bin Laden that was still alive and well. They were organized in a big way, that they had significant help … from other parts of the world.”
© REUTERS / LEAH MILLISU.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan during a speech in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan during a speech in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021.
“We went there for two reasons, George. Two reasons. One, to get bin Laden, and two, to wipe out as best we could, and we did, the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did it,” he added, before acknowledging that the US mission in the war-torn nation subsequently shifted to “nation building.”
“We decided to engage in nation building - in nation building. That never made any sense to me,” he underscored.
The US launched its invasion of Afghanistan in October after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and end operations of al-Qaeda training camps in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The near 20-year military occupation became the longest US war to date.
Biden went on to relay to Stephanopoulos that history would more than likely judge the American experience in Afghanistan as having been “one that we overextended what we needed to do to deal with our national interest.”
Although Biden previously stressed during his address to the nation that his decision to continue with the withdrawal process was necessary, especially after US-trained Afghan forces posed no resistance to Taliban advances, he stated that the pullout does not mean that the US presence will completely disappear.
In fact, Biden noted during his televised speech on Monday that US military operations in Afghanistan would effectively be shifting into a Somalia-like drone war after admitting that the US conducts “effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have permanent military presence.”
The president touched on that exact stance during the Stephanopoulos exclusive, but emphasized that threats to the US were “significantly greater” elsewhere. “The deal is the threat from al-Qaeda and their associate organizations is greater in other parts of the world to the United States than it is from Afghanistan,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Although intelligence reports had detailed that the Taliban would retake Afghanistan after the US withdrawal, no reports indicated that it would unfold so quickly, or that it would happen while US troops were still on the ground. Top US Gen. Mark Milley clarified during a Wednesday Pentagon briefing that he was unaware of any intelligence reports that outlined the Afghan government would fall within the span of 11 days.
The latest remarks from Biden came hours after exiled Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued his own televised statement in which he vowed to return to Afghanistan in order to bring “justice” to all Afghans he had abandoned upon his departure to the United Arab Emirates over the weekend.