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Biden vs. Biden: Old Video Surfaces Showing POTUS Praising Nation-Building in Afghanistan

© Photo : C-SPANScreengrab of C-SPAN video featuring Senator Joseph Biden speaking about the importance of nation-building in Afghanistan.
Screengrab of C-SPAN video featuring Senator Joseph Biden speaking about the importance of nation-building in Afghanistan. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.08.2021
In comments in his address to the nation and US media this week on the Afghanistan debacle, President Biden mentioned his supposed long-term opposition to nation-building in the war-torn nation as one of the key justifications for exiting the decades-old conflict, no matter the cost to America’s global image
Old footage has surfaced of Joe Biden passionately defending nation-building in Afghanistan, despite his more recent claims that he has been a passionate opponent of the practice all along.
In a February 2003 Senate hearing on Afghan reconstruction attended by then-President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, then-Senator Biden of Delaware remarked that: “In some parts of the administration, nation-building is still a dirty phrase. But the alternative to nation-building is chaos, a chaos that churns out bloodthirsty warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists. We’ve seen it happen in Afghanistan before and I am quite frankly fearful that it may happen again.”
“The people of Afghanistan have long memories: after helping drive the Soviets out of the country in 1989, the United States quickly lost interest in the war’s untidy aftermath. Nation-building was slow, frustrating, and above all, expensive. So, as my hosts in Kabul reminded me, we quickly left the Afghans to fend for themselves,” the senator added, urging the US not to make the same mistake a second time.
Biden’s comments from 2003 stand in stark contrast to his remarks this week. In his in-depth interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, the president insisted that toppling the Taliban and nation-building were not among the policy objectives that America set for itself in Afghanistan after 9/11.
“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. Then what happened? Began to morph into the notion that, instead of having a counterterrorism capability to have small forces in there- or in the region to be able to take on al-Qaeda if it tried to reconstitute, we decided to engage in nation-building. That never made sense to me,” Biden said.
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Biden made a similar argument in his address to the nation on Monday, in the immediate aftermath of the Afghan government’s collapse. “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building,” he stressed, adding that he’d personally “argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building.”
The concept of nation-building revolves around the idea that a national identity can be moulded through the use of the power of a state. In the United States and other Western nations, neoconservative and neoliberal ideologists have theorised that Western military, economic and political power could be deployed in nations which don’t have Western-style political, economic and social institutions, values or attitudes. The Western powers led by the United States used the concept of nation-building to rebuild Germany and Japan in the aftermath of the Second World War, and have attempted to employ the idea after the Cold War in some former Soviet bloc countries, and in Iraq and Afghanistan after invading the two countries.
The Biden administration was put on the defensive this week in the aftermath of Sunday’s dramatic takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. The militants captured the Afghan capital less than two weeks after beginning their offensive to capture the country’s urban areas, and just over four months after Washington announced that it would be withdrawing its troops. US-trained, equipped and paid Afghan security forces melted away in the face of the Taliban’s offensives, and state institutions collapsed, with senior government officials and the president fleeing the country for the Persian Gulf. The United States spent over $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan over the past 19+ years, or over $300 million per day, with over 3,500 US and NATO troops, tens of thousands of Afghan security forces personnel, and over 100,000 Afghan civilians killed in the fighting.
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