President Joe Biden defended his administration's handling of the pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in a speech at the White House Tuesday, where he thanked the troops for helping to evacuate American civilians from the country.
Biden began the speech by announcing that “Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history.” He also said his administration would continue to evacuate U.S. citizens who are seeking to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
“Our Operation Allied Rescue ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out,” he said. “We believe there’s about 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are dual citizens, longtime residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan. The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.”
“Our State Department was working 24/7, contacting and talking and in some cases walking Americans into the airport,” Biden added. “For those who remain, we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose.”
The president addressed the Americans remaining in Afghanistan, stressing that “there is no deadline” for working to evacuate them.
“We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.” Biden noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was leading “diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.” Blinken discussed these efforts at a press conference Monday.
Biden also defended abiding by the Aug. 31 deadline, which many Christian groups urged him to push back as concerns grew that the U.S. military would not be able to evacuate all Americans who wanted to leave by then. “Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives,” the president asserted.
“The decision to end the military lift operations at Kabul Airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and all the service chiefs and the commanders in the field,” he maintained.
Biden also urged “all Americans to join me in grateful prayer for our troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results.”
After declaring that “I take responsibility for the decision” to leave Afghanistan, Biden pushed back on those who criticized his handling of the pullout: “There is no … evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges and threats we faced.”
Biden spent the remainder of his speech elaborating on his foreign policy philosophy, raising questions about the justification for the continued military presence in Afghanistan. “What is the vital national interest?” he asked. “In my view, we only have one: to make sure Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland.”
Recalling how the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks led to the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, he suggested that “We had no vital interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America’s homeland.” According to Biden, “We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then, we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.”
After telling the American people that “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan,” Biden added, “We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and in other countries, we just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it.”
Following the U.S. military's withdrawal, supporters of the Taliban paraded caskets draped in the U.S. and U.K. flags and fired weapons into the air in cities throughout Afghanistan, The Telegraph reported.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted slightly before the withdrawal found that 59% of Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, while 84% of Americans believed that the U.S. military should have stayed in Afghanistan until all Americans were evacuated, even if that meant staying beyond the Aug. 31 deadline.
in his speech, Biden also delivered a message to the terrorist group ISIS-K, which was purportedly responsible for the suicide bombing at Abbey Gate outside the Kabul airport last week that killed 13 U.S. service members and over 170 civilians: “We are not done with you yet.”
According to a United Nations report, however, it's likely that ISIS-K, which works with the Haqqani Network, merely claimed responsibility for the attack that was carried out by Haqqani.
"On the day the 13 Americans were killed, the Haqqani Network was in charge of Kabul security. The victorious Taliban days earlier had appointed a network leader, wanted terrorist Khalil Haqqani, as Kabul’s top security officer. And the Biden administration relied on the Taliban to operate checkpoints around the airport," The Washington Times reported.
Biden said the U.S. was now going to “turn the page” on its foreign policy of the past two decades: “We must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of the United States of America. This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
“We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan … morph into a counterinsurgency, nation-building, trying to create a democratic, cohesive and united Afghanistan,” he added. “Moving on from that mindset” will “make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.”
He did not take questions after his remarks.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org