Image: White House Youtube screenshot
United States President Joe Biden broke his silence on the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban on August 17 shortly after midnight IST. The head of state stood by his decision in ending the US's longest military engagement by completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan where it has been embroiled since 2001. 'I am President of the US and the buck stops with me,' Biden said, adding that he was saddened by the facts the world now faces, but that the decision was the correct one for America.
Joe Biden started his address by admitting that he has been closely monitoring the 'rapidly falling situation of Afghanistan' with his national security advisory. This came after he cut short a vacation to return to the White House to deliver this address.
#BREAKING | Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. Our only interest was preventing any attacks on our homeland: US President Joe Biden after Taliban re-conquers Afghanistan https://t.co/4yVpzDQsRN pic.twitter.com/pMsnXyuDgE— Republic (@republic) August 16, 2021
Defending the precipitous move by the US, Joe Biden asserted the American troops had entered Afghanistan in 2001 as a retaliation to al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks. The objective of deploying forces in the foreign land was to prevent further terror attacks orchestrated by al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and not aid Afghanistan in nation-building.
Asserting that the US had not entered Afghanistan for counter-terrorism or reforming the country, Biden said, 'The US entered with clear goals to make sure al-Qaeda did not use Afghanistan. We did not enter Afghanistan with an aim of nation-building and of curbing insurgency.'
#BREAKING | I stand squarely behind my decisions; After 20 years I've learnt the hard way there was never a good time to withdraw. Afghanistan political leaders gave up & fled country and its military collapsed: US President Joe Biden https://t.co/4yVpzDQsRN pic.twitter.com/KDUVmxxVaa— Republic (@republic) August 16, 2021
Stressing that the US-led troops had been facing the 'ugly brunt' of violence-stricken Afghanistan, Biden stated that he does not want to be the fifth President of the United States to let 'more American soldiers sacrifice lives'. Biden also said that if it was required the US is prepared to act 'quickly, swiftly and decisively to counter-terrorism'.
Reiterating his take on the accord signed by his predecessor Donald Trump wherein the deadline for troops' withdrawal was May 1, 2021, Biden stated that he was left to either follow through with the pact or deploy 'thousands of soldiers fighting the Taliban in middle of spring fighting season'. He also clarified that by the time he held the office in January 2021, troops had been drawn down from 15,500 to 2,500 already.
Furthermore, Biden stated there would exist no protection to forces and no status quo once the pact was signed. US troops would not only lose jurisdiction but protection too, he implied. "I could either send thousands of US forces to the third decade of conflict or retrieve", he added. Stating that the US could not anticipate the rapid fall of the government, he said there is 'never a good time to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan."
"We planned but I will be straight with you, this fall did happen more quickly than we anticipated", he said.
#LIVE | Our true strategic competitors Russia and China would love nothing more than the US continuing to funnel and spending billions of dollars into Afghanistan endlessly: US President Joe Biden https://t.co/4yVpzDQsRN pic.twitter.com/GDoG9vMe9r— Republic (@republic) August 16, 2021
Admitting that the US would be criticised by many, he said that he cannot repeat mistakes or cannot ignore issues like other leaders and it is 'wrong to ask US forces to step up when Afghanistan did not'. Addressing the sudden departure of Ashraf Ghani from Afghanistan, the US President said, "Afghanistan's President fled the country. There is no chance that we send the US for one year or five years or 12 more years. Americans cannot and should not deserve to die."
Stating that the US spent trillions of dollars in equipping the Afghan forces, Biden said the US faced the brunt when Afghan government and the Taliban failed to negotiate 'better for their country'.
Mentioning a previous meeting with the ousted leader of Afghanistan, Biden stated, "Ashraf Ghani insisted the Afghan forces will fight, but they did not." He stated that he had had 'frank conversations with Ghani on how Afghanistan should be prepared to fight.'
Biden also stressed the need for Afghanistan to engage in a political settlement. While admitting that the images of Afghanistan now are 'gut-wrenching' Biden said, "I am clear of my answer. I am not going to conflict with the interests of the US."
#LIVE | As we carry out this departure, we've made it clear to Taliban if they attack our personnel the response will be swift and forceful: US President Joe Biden https://t.co/VblsDiHRyN pic.twitter.com/KAGjLMSsKD— Republic (@republic) August 16, 2021
"We will continue to speak out for basic rights of women and people of Afghanistan, as we do for the rest of the world," he added.
Reiterating US' goals to 'degrade terror in Afghanistan and kill Osama' Biden stated that the Taliban has been warned that 'we will defend our people with devastating force if necessary' if the ongoing evacuation was in any way imperiled.
"I know I will be criticised for my decision but I am ready to take it all because this is the right thing to do. I committed to not ask them to risk their lives somewhere it should have ended long ago," Joe Biden said before concluding, oddly for an American President, without taking any questions.
#LIVE | I am President of the United States of America and the buck stops with me. I am deeply saddened at the facts that we now face but I don't regret my decision: Joe Biden https://t.co/4yVpzDQsRN pic.twitter.com/n5xLr9PWwy— Republic (@republic) August 16, 2021