As the Biden administration faces bipartisan criticism amid the fall of the Afghanistan government at the hands of the Taliban, President Joe Biden defended his decision to pull U.S. troops out, casting some blame on Afghan political leaders in a speech Monday.
In his speech delivered in the East Room of the White House, Biden lamented the Taliban’s quick advancement throughout the war-torn Middle East country but maintained that he made the right decision by pulling troops out nearly 20 years into the War in Afghanistan.
Biden said that while he is "deeply saddened by the facts we now face," he does "not regret" his decision.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” he added.
The president admitted that “this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” He placed the blame for the deteriorating situation in the Middle East on the Afghani political leadership, whom he argued “gave up and fled the country.”
“The Afghan military collapsed … without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. 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 the original mission of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was to “get those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and make sure Al-Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.”
He contends that the mission was successful but stressed that “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building, it was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.”
Additionally, the president said the only national security interest remaining in Afghanistan is “preventing a terrorist attack on [the] American homeland.”
After highlighting the money and resources spent on the war in addition to the Americans who lost their lives fighting there, he argued that “It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not."
"The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for their country when the chips were down," Biden said.
“How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight … Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth?” he asked. “I will not repeat the mistakes we have made in the past, the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely when the conflict is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.”
Acknowledging the “gut-wrenching” scenes unfolding in Afghanistan, Biden outlined his administration's actions to ensure that Americans residing in Afghanistan and Afghanis who have worked alongside Americans could evacuate safely.
The president specifically highlighted the deployment of 6,000 American troops to Afghanistan “for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.”
The mission also includes securing the airfield and ensuring “continued operation of both the civilian and military flights," "taking over air traffic control,” shutting down the embassy and evacuating the diplomats.
“Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan” and supporting “the safe departure of civilian personnel,” he stated. “If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift, and the response will be swift and forceful.”
“We will continue to support the Afghan people,” Biden vowed. “We will continue to lead with our diplomacy, our international influence and our humanitarian aid. We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.”
With some claiming that the military pullout from Afghanistan will hurt minorities and women, Biden indicated that the U.S. would continue to speak out for the “basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls.”
He rejected “endless military deployments” as the way to achieve the U.S.’s objective of advancing human rights, instead pointing to diplomacy and economic tools as the most effective means to that end.
“Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives," he said, emphasizing that “once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal.”
Biden noted that he is the fourth U.S. president to serve since the war first started nearly two decades ago. He promised that he would “not pass this responsibility onto a fifth president.”
“The events we are seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan,” he concluded. From now on, the president vowed that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan would be “narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building.”
Following the speech's conclusion, the president refused to take questions, much to the chagrin of the White House press corps.
The president’s refusal to take questions comes as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is on vacation. Reporters seeking to ask her questions via email received an auto reply informing them that she was out of the office for the week. Biden, who was scheduled to be on vacation at the presidential retreat of Camp David through Wednesday, returned to the White House to give the speech.
As the Taliban has taken over the capital of Kabul and Afghanistan's president fled the country by airplane, human rights activists and religious leaders have warned about the fate of religious minorities under Taliban rule. The Taliban refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The World Evangelical Alliance, which represents over 600 million evangelicals worldwide, expressed deep concerns about the situation Monday. In a statement, the alliance noted that the Taliban has been known for the persecution of religious minorities, suppression of women, drug trade and human trafficking.
The WEA believes that religious minorities in Afghanistan — including Muslim minorities — will "suffer even more now."
“We are very concerned about the recent developments in Afghanistan and the dire prospects for all those who do not fit within the Taliban’s view of a society," WEA Secretary General Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher said in a statement.
"What is less reported is the plight of religious minorities, including Christians, who have suffered severe oppression during the past twenty years and who are now at even greater risk."
“We should not pretend as if everything was well in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban taking control of the country now," he added. "Converts from Islam have been killed in areas under the former official government, and war lords who controlled part of the country, and are now losing their power, were not much better."
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org