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Joe Biden defends US actions in Afghanistan, says Afghan political leaders fled and military was unwilling to fight Taliban

“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves," Biden said, adding that Afghan political leaders fled the country and the military 'collapsed'.

On August 16, United States President Joe Biden gave a statement over the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. During his address, he said that his National Security team is closely monitoring the ground situation, including the rapid collapse of the government in the hands of the Taliban.

He said the US’s mission in Afghanistan was never about nation-building or creating unified, centralized democracy. It was always about preventing a terrorist attack on US soil.

Biden added that the US went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago to ensure Al-Qaeda cannot use Afghanistan as a base for an attack on US soil again. He said the US never gave up on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and eventually killed him a decade ago.

Biden further stated that the US tried its best to equip the Afghan military against the Taliban but the ‘fall’ was quicker than they expected. He further stated that Russia and China would love to see an extended quagmire in Afghanistan and if the Taliban further tries to attack US, there will be a devastating response.

Biden blames Afghans and their military

Biden stated that Afghanistan’s political leaders ‘gave up’ and fled the country and after that the Afghan military ‘collapsed’ because they were unwilling to fight the Taliban.

Biden also blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for allowing the Taliban to become more powerful. He added that he won’t continue to risk the lives of American soldiers for a war that should have ended long ago.

Biden was against surge as VP

President Biden said that when the surge was proposed in 2009 when he was Vice President of the United States, he had opposed it as, according to him, the mission should have been focused on counterterrorism and not counterinsurgency or nation-building.

He added that terrorism had expanded its roots beyond Afghanistan. Terrorist outfits such as Al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS is trying to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia need US attention and resources.

Biden points fingers at former President Trump

President Biden further added that former President Trump had a deal with the Taliban on withdrawal of US forces by May 1, 2021. The agreement between Trump and the Taliban had a clause of ceasefire till May 1, and continuing to letting American troops in Afghanistan would have led to American causalities, claimed Biden.

During his administration, the presence of US troops in Afghanistan was already down to 2,500 from 15,500 that too when the Taliban was at its strongest since 2001. Biden said he had two choices, either to follow through on the agreement or send more troops in Afghanistan, stretching the conflict to the third decade. He decided on the former.

‘Afghanistan army surrendered without a fight’

Biden further added that the Afghan leaders and military surrendered without a fight. He said, “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars.  We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.”

He further added, “We gave them every tool they could need.  We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have.  Taliban does not have an air force.  We provided close air support.” He said the leaders did not come together for the good of the people of Afghanistan, and they would have never done so even if American troops stayed in the country.  He claimed that when he hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and talked to Ghani in July, he had discussed how Afghanistan should have prepared for the civil wars once US troops leave, but they never did anything.

The US will continue counterterrorism missions without a permanent military presence

Biden said that the US had conducted several counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups without a permanent military presence in the country, and it will do the same in Afghanistan if necessary. He mentioned that he had already deployed 6,000 troops for the safe departure of US and allied civilian personal from the war-struck country, and his administration would continue to accept refugees eligible for Special Immigration Visas.

He added, “We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: US non-governmental agencies — or the US non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and US news agencies.”

The military mission will be limited in scope

Biden further said that the current military mission would be short and limited in scope. The main objective would be to get US citizens and allies out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. “And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed,” he said.

He further added, “I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.”

Adding to the fact that he is the fourth American President to preside over the war in Afghanistan, he is not interested in passing the responsibility to a fifth President. “I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me,” he said.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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