The president insisted that the United States had done much than capable to empower the Afghan constabulary and subject to unafraid the aboriginal of their people.
July 8, 2021Updated 8:25 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — President Biden vigorously defended his determination to extremity America’s 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan connected Thursday, asserting that the United States tin nary longer spend the quality outgo oregon strategical distraction of a struggle that helium said had strayed acold from its archetypal mission.
Speaking aft the withdrawal of astir each U.S. combat forces and arsenic the Taliban surge crossed the country, Mr. Biden, often successful blunt and antiaircraft tones, spoke straight to critics of his bid to bring an extremity to American information successful a struggle calved from the violent attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said the United States would formally extremity its subject ngo astatine the extremity of August.
“Let maine inquire those who privation america to stay: How galore more?” Mr. Biden said successful remarks successful the East Room of the White House. “How galore thousands much American daughters and sons are you consenting to risk? And however agelong would you person them stay?”
Mr. Biden said helium was not declaring “mission accomplished,” but helium made wide that the aboriginal of the state — including the destiny of the existent authorities and concerns astir the rights of women and girls — was nary longer successful the hands of the American military.
Responding to questions from reporters astir his determination to bring the warfare to a close, Mr. Biden grew testy arsenic helium rejected the likelihood that Americans would person to fly from Kabul arsenic they did from Saigon successful 1975. He insisted that the United States had done much than capable to empower the Afghan constabulary and subject to unafraid the aboriginal of their peop
But helium conceded that their occurrence would beryllium connected whether they had the governmental volition and the subject might.
Pressed connected whether the broader objectives of the two-decade effort had failed, Mr. Biden said, “The ngo hasn’t failed — yet.”
The president besides insisted that the United States had not abandoned the thousands of Afghans who served arsenic translators oregon provided different assistance to the American military. Responding to critics who reason his medication is not moving rapidly capable to support them, Mr. Biden said evacuations were underway and promised those Afghans that determination was “a location for you successful the United States, if you truthful choose. We volition basal with you, conscionable arsenic you stood with us.”
John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the subject was looking astatine relocating Afghan interpreters and their families to U.S. territories, American subject installations extracurricular the United States, and successful different countries extracurricular of Afghanistan.
The warfare began 2 decades ago, the president argued, not to rebuild a distant federation but to forestall panic attacks similar the 1 connected Sept. 11, 2001 and to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. In essence, Mr. Biden said the longest warfare successful United States past should person ended a decennary ago, erstwhile Bin Laden was killed.
“We did not spell to Afghanistan to nation-build,” helium said. “And it’s the close and the work of Afghan radical unsocial to determine their aboriginal and however they privation to tally their country.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks adjacent arsenic the antiauthoritarian authorities successful Kabul teeters nether a Taliban siege that has displaced tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and allowed the insurgent radical to seizure overmuch of the country.
The accelerated American withdrawal, helium said, was a substance of safety.
“Our subject commanders advised maine that erstwhile I made the determination to extremity the war, we needed to determination swiftly to behaviour the main elements of the drawdown,” Mr. Biden said. “And successful this context, velocity is safety.”
In an effort to supply constricted reassurance to the Afghan government, helium said the American ngo to assistance support the state would proceed done Aug. 31, though astir combat troops person already left, leaving a unit of nether 1,000 to support the American embassy and the country’s airport.
At different clip successful the country’s history, Mr. Biden’s speech, and the last withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, mightiness person roiled authorities successful the United States.
But astatine a infinitesimal erstwhile Americans are inactive warring Covid, searching for a mode retired of 18 months of economical disruption, and struggling with radical hostility and governmental division, determination is astir nary statement astir the contented of the drawdown among Democrats and Republicans successful Congress. Polls amusement that ample numbers of Americans successful some parties enactment leaving Afghanistan.
For years, Mr. Biden, successful wanting to retreat from Afghanistan, was connected the losing broadside of the debate. In 2009, portion serving arsenic vice president, helium argued for a minimal force, lone to beryllium overruled arsenic President Barack Obama ordered a surge of forces, past a accelerated drawdown. But a twelve years later, arsenic president, helium has recovered his moment.
Progressives who erstwhile warmed to the thought of educating Afghan girls and women are present much funny successful rebuilding America than Afghanistan. Conservatives person mostly fixed up connected erstwhile President George W. Bush’s pledge to dispersed ideology astir the satellite and alternatively embraced erstwhile President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” absorption to what helium saw arsenic endless wars.
In his remarks connected Thursday, and successful his answers to questions, Mr. Biden delivered a statesmanlike mentation of “I told you so” astir the war.
“In 2011, NATO allies and partners agreed that we would extremity our combat ngo successful 2014,” helium said. “In 2014, immoderate argued 1 much year. So we kept warring and kept taking casualties. In 2015 the same. And connected and on.”
Now, helium said, the acquisition of 2 decades of warfare reveals that “just 1 much twelvemonth of warring successful Afghanistan is not a solution, but a look for being determination indefinitely.”
America’s allies person accepted Mr. Biden’s decision. On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced the extremity of his country’s ngo successful Afghanistan, echoing Mr. Biden’s appraisal that it was clip for an extremity to the planetary subject effort.
The president’s speech, which came conscionable days aft U.S. forces pulled retired of Bagram Air Base, the operations halfway of the 20-year war, was the latest acknowledgment that the United States could not change the country’s course.
But questions stay astir whether his committedness that the United States would clasp an “over the horizon” capableness to backmost up the Afghan forces amounts to a existent information guarantee. Any cognition would astir surely request support from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III oregon Mr. Biden himself.
“No federation has ever unified Afghanistan, nary nation. Empires person gone determination and not done it,” Mr. Biden said successful a notation to the British concern of the state successful the 19th period and the Soviet effort to summation power 3 decades ago. Both efforts failed, and Mr. Biden was, successful essence, adding the United States to the list.
In February 2020, the Trump medication announced an statement with the Taliban that they advertised arsenic a pathway to peace. But it hinged connected a power-sharing statement betwixt the Taliban and the Afghan authorities that ne'er materialized. And now, the concern connected the crushed is deteriorating truthful rapidly that the Taliban’s territorial gains turn by the day.
Tens of thousands of civilians person been displaced, provincial capitals are nether siege and successful immoderate cases, Afghan troops person fled into neighboring Tajikistan. A 3rd question of the coronavirus has besides pushed the country’s impoverished wellness attraction strategy to the brink.
Peace talks successful Qatar betwixt the Taliban and the Afghan authorities person each but stalled, contempt occasional meetings betwixt some sides.
The Afghan authorities is progressively isolated. President Ashraf Ghani has shuffled his information furniture with hopes that a caller subject strategy could assistance support the country’s astir important cities. Kabul, the country’s capital, is dealing with rolling powerfulness outages and increasing lines astatine the passport office, highlighting the Taliban’s increasing proximity.
In a motion to the ongoing instability, Mr. Biden said helium intended for the United States to stay engaged successful diplomatic efforts and to enactment the Afghan authorities with wealth and supplies adjacent aft each U.S. troops person left.
“We volition proceed to supply civilian and humanitarian assistance, including speaking retired for the rights of women and girls,” helium said. “I mean to support our diplomatic beingness successful Afghanistan.”
But since the United States officially began its withdrawal successful May, Afghan troops person surrendered successful the hundreds, forfeiting troves of U.S.-supplied equipment.
On Wednesday, Taliban forces entered a cardinal metropolis successful the country’s northwest, freeing much than 100 prisoners determination and astir taking the superior of Badghis Province — Qala-e-Naw — until Afghan commandos and aerial enactment pushed the insurgents to its periphery.
The Taliban look intent connected pushing for an outright subject victory. And nary substance what the accord negotiated 17 months agone said astir powerfulness sharing, the Taliban present present themselves arsenic a comparable governing assemblage arsenic they prehend territory and revive their hard-line Islamist rules.
Still, Mr. Biden said connected Thursday that helium did not judge a Taliban takeover of the authorities was inevitable and helium bristled erstwhile a newsman asked if helium trusted the Taliban.
“That’s a silly question,” helium snapped. “Do I spot the Taliban? No. But I spot the capableness of the Afghan military, who is amended trained, amended equipped and much competent successful presumption of conducting war.”
Many different important issues stay unresolved. The medication is inactive moving retired plans to assistance support from afar the Afghan Air Force and the military’s Black Hawk chopper fleet.
The Afghan Air Force, successful particular, is heavy reliant connected American and different overseas contractors for repairs, maintenance, fueling, grooming and different jobs indispensable to support it operating. About 200 of the archetypal 18,000 Pentagon contractors stay successful the country. Most contractors departed on with the American military, leaving a void that U.S. and Afghan leaders accidental could beryllium crippling to Afghan forces arsenic they look the Taliban alone.
Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul. Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.