Biden said he had no regrets about the military cuts in Afghanistan, insisting that “gold stops with me.”
Here are his remarks as they prepare for delivery:
Hello. Today I want to talk about what is happening in Afghanistan. These are the steps we are taking to cope with the progress that has taken place over the past week and the rapidly changing events.
My National Security Team and I are moving quickly to carefully monitor the situation on the scene in Afghanistan and implement the plans we have put in place to respond to all members, including the rapid collapse we are currently seeing.
The specific steps have been straightforward, but I’d like to remind you of how we got here, and America’s interest in Afghanistan.
We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals. Catch the people who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a stronghold to attack us again. Did you?
We have severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up hunting Osama bin Ladin. We got him. That was 10 years ago.
Our mission in Afghanistan ensures that there is never any nation-building. It will not create a unified and centralized democracy.
Our important national interest in Afghanistan is only to prevent terrorist attacks on the continental United States.
Our mission has long argued that we must focus narrowly on counterterrorism, not on rebellion or state-building. So I objected when I proposed a surge in 2009 when I was vice president.
So, as President, I am committed to not focusing on the threats we faced yesterday, but on the threats, we face today in 2021.
Today’s terrorist threat extends far beyond Afghanistan. Al-Shabaab in Somalia, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Arunusra in Syria are trying to create a Syrian and Iraqi caliphate, ISIS, which is establishing affiliates in several countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and resources.
We carry out effective counter-terrorism missions against terrorist groups in many countries that do not have a permanent military presence.
Do the same in Afghanistan if necessary. We have developed a super-horizontal terrorist capability in the region that allows us to keep an eye on the direct threats to the United States and act swiftly and decisively as needed.
I inherited the deal that President Trump had negotiated with the Taliban when he took office. Based on his agreement, the US military was scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. It’s been a little over three months since I took office. The
The US Army was already reduced from about 15,500 US troops to 2,500 garrison troops during the Trump administration, making the Taliban the most military-powered since 2001. Follow that agreement or get ready to fight the Taliban again in the middle of spring.
There was no truce after May 1st. After May 1st, there was no agreement to protect our army. There has been no stable condition without the US military since May 1st.
The calm reality of implementing either agreement Entering 30 years of conflict, withdrawing our troops, expanding the conflict, and retransmitting thousands of US troops into combat in Afghanistan.
I fully support my decision. Twenty years later, I learned that there was no good time to withdraw US troops.
We were still there. We knew the risks clearly. We are prepared for all emergencies.
But I always promised the American people that I would go straight with you. The truth is: this unfolded faster than we expected. What happened there?
Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan army sometimes collapses without fighting.
Whichever way it goes, past progress reinforced that it was the right decision now to end US military intervention in Afghanistan.
US forces can not, nor should they, fight or die in a war that Afghan forces are willing to fight on their own. We’ve spent over $1 trillion. We have trained and equipped a powerful Afghan army of about 300,000 people. It is very well equipped, making it an army larger than many NATO allies’ forces.
We gave them all the tools they needed. We paid their salaries and provided for the maintenance of their air force without the Taliban. The Taliban do not have an air force. It provided close air support.
We gave them every opportunity to decide their own future. What we couldn’t offer them was the will to fight that future.
There is no possibility of another year, five years, or twenty years if Afghanistan can not show true resistance to the current Taliban. The number of U.S. military boots on the ground is what made a difference.
And this is my core belief. Afghanistan’s own military doesn’t do that, and it would be wrong to order the US military to step up. If Afghanistan’s political leaders could not gather the people and negotiate about their country’s future when the chips ran out, they would never have done so.
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