President Joe Biden has been clear in his desire to undo many of the orders and actions implemented under the Trump administration, but he has been somewhat more nebulous in describing what he actually wants to do — particularly in laying out his defense priorities.
In a speech on Wednesday, for example, Biden offered a noncommittal remark rhetorically advocating for the end of America’s longest ongoing wars around the world.
“The security of the American people”
As the Washington Examiner reported, Biden called for a “responsible end” to U.S. involvement in multiple conflicts as part of his first presidential address at the Pentagon.
Of course, former President Donald Trump also frequently spoke of efforts to bring “endless wars” to a conclusion, though his defeat in November’s election led some allies to wonder about the future of American military involvement.
Taken at his word, however, Biden set a similar tone this week, acknowledging that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that date back to the 9/11 terrorist attacks have gone on for “too long” and should be ended in an appropriate manner. Critics are sure to focus on caveats in his language as a possible indicator that these wars could continue indefinitely without an adequate resolution.
“I will work with [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin and leaders around the world to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people,” Biden said.
For his part, Trump brought the number of troops in Afghanistan down to 2,500, the lowest level since the war began in 2001, shortly before he left office.
“I will never dishonor you”
A timeline set under his administration for a peace deal with the Taliban calls for a full withdrawal by May, but Biden has called for a review of that plan.
In his speech on Wednesday, the president seemed to approach an end to the wars as an afterthought, first touting a commitment to diversity — including his reversal of a transgender ban in the military — as well as a call to “reprioritize” the Pentagon’s assets to focus on issues like climate change and racial justice.
“And it’s long past time that the full diversity and full strength of our force is reflected at every level of this Department, including our Secretary of Defense,” Biden said.
While he shied away from most concrete promises, the president did pledge never to “politicize” the military in an apparent potshot directed at his predecessor.
“I will never dishonor you,” Biden said. “I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do.”