US President Joe Biden has defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan amid widespread criticism over the Taliban’s surprisingly rapid conquest of the war-torn country.
In a televised address to the nation, Biden said despite the chaotic exit, “there was never a good time to withdraw US forces”.
Upon his return to the White House from Camp David, he said, “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”
The Democratic president added, “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 Afghanistan campaign was never supposed to have been about nation-building. He added that as vice-president under the former US President Barack Obama, he had opposed the 2009 deployment of thousands of more troops into the country.
The former Delaware senator said being the fourth US president to preside over America’s longest war, he did not want to pass the responsibility on to a fifth. Biden said, “I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.”
The former Delaware senator also noted that he had inherited a deal negotiated with the Taliban under his predecessor former US President Donald Trump for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021.
Biden address followed a melodramatic day at Kabul’s international airport, where American troops killed two Afghans who were part of the desperate crowd desperate to flee the country. A total of seven deaths have been reported so far.
Although, several polls suggest that the American public supports the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the newly elected president is facing an intense political backlash over the manner of the departure, and the Taliban’s swift rise to power.
In a tweet, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “What we are seeing in Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster. The Biden Administration’s retreat will leave a stain on the reputation of the United States.”
Former US President George W Bush, who led the military intervention in 2001, said he was “watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness”.
Bush said that the US had “the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises”. He added, “The Afghans now at greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation.”
Earlier, the Taliban declared victory after taking over the presidential palace in Kabul and announced a general amnesty for government officials, and have urged them to return to work.