President Joe Biden has received mixed reviews for his plan to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the 9/11 attacks sparked America’s longest war.
In remarks this week, Biden appeared to admit defeat, essentially describing the ongoing fight against the Taliban as a military effort that can no longer be justified.
“How many thousands more”
He defended the withdrawal of American forces on Thursday, dismissing comparisons to the end of the Vietnam War and insisting that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is not set in stone.
As the troop withdrawal nears completion, intelligence officials and critics in Congress have warned that Afghanistan will quickly fall into the hands of extremists without the support of U.S. troops, effectively wiping out almost two decades of American efforts in the region.
Nevertheless, Biden asserted that critics want America to remain in the nation “indefinitely,” continuing to risk American lives without a clear plan to win the war.
The president went on to explain that the world has changed significantly since 2001 and there are other threats outside of Afghanistan — particularly China.
“How many more — how many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” he asked. “How long would you have them stay?”
“The responsibility of the Afghan people”
Acknowledging that he cannot declare “mission accomplished” in Afghanistan, Biden maintained that the mission was not a complete failure. As evidence of U.S. military success, he pointed to the raid that took out al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden as well as the reduced threat of terrorism in the region.
At the same time, Biden argued that America never intended to engage in an open-ended occupation of Afghanistan, adding that those living in that nation must take control of their own destiny.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” he said. “And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
Biden’s stance represents a rare overlap with the policies of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who campaigned on an effort to bring the nation’s “endless wars” to a close.
The current administration delayed Trump’s proposed withdrawal by several months and it is now set to be complete by the end of August.