Biden Defends His Decision in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Tuesday hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of the evacuation of Kabul as he vehemently defended his decision to end America’s war in Afghanistan, just one day after the end of a two-week rescue of 125,000 people from Kabul that saw the deaths of 13 service members.

Speaking from the Cross Hall at the White House, Mr. Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died in the evacuation mission.

“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said in a speech in which he offered no apologies for either his decision to end the war or the way in which his administration executed that mission. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”

Mr. Biden appeared intent on forcefully rejecting criticism of the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, offering a defensive recounting of his decision-making and blaming former President Donald J. Trump for negotiating a bad deal with the Taliban that boxed Mr. Biden and his team in.

“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” Mr. Biden declared, his tone angry and defensive as he opened the first minutes of his remarks. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”

Before Mr. Biden’s speech, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, had said the president would “lay out his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made over the last seven months since he took office to bring the war to a close,” she said. “He will make clear that as president, he will approach our foreign policy through the prism of what is in our national interests, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe.”

Ms. Psaki also said that the president would thank commanders and service members “who executed a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted more than 124,000 people to safety; he will also offer thanks to the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort.”

The president delivered his remarks almost 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban from power in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and just a day after the last American troops and diplomats departed the country, which is once again under Taliban rule.

Mr. Biden pointedly did not announce the news on Monday that the final transport plane carrying American forces had left Afghanistan, leaving that instead to Pentagon officials who briefed reporters after the plane had left Afghan airspace. On Sunday, he declined to answer a question about Afghanistan from a reporter following his trip to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, to witness the transfer of the remains of 13 American service members killed in a bombing attack at the Kabul airport last week, the final U.S. casualties of the war.

Mr. Biden’s speech comes as White House officials are hoping to wind down a difficult episode for his presidency, and focus instead on domestic crises at hand — including the ongoing Delta variant wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s destructive path through the Gulf Coast.

The president is also expected to pivot in the days and weeks ahead toward a push in Congress next month to pass key provisions of the president’s multi-trillion-dollar economic agenda, including major spending on infrastructure and social services.

For more than two weeks, the rushed exit of troops from Afghanistan, and the chaos and violence around the airport, have diverted the White House from the president’s domestic agenda.

Network time

Leave a Comment