Washington : Fending off criticism over the decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden said that he stands firmly behind his decision, and that the US mission there was never meant to be for nation-building.
In a speech, Biden said that the US mission’s only vital interest in Afghanistan was to prevent a terror attack in the US.
“Our mission should be counter terrorism and not nation building,” he said, adding that the threats that America faces today are what matter and “not the threats of yesterday”.
He cited the ISIS presence in Syria, Iraq and Africa, saying these are the threats that need to be focused on.
“The buck stops with me,” he said.
He said if needed then the US will send forces to Afghanistan again, but not have a permanent military presence.
Biden said when he took over he had to either follow through on Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, who were “at their strongest militarily”, or escalate the conflict and lurch into a third decade of conflict.
“I have learnt that there is never a good time to withdraw our forces… I was always clear-eyed about our decision,” Biden said, adding that the events in Afghanistan over the past few days happened very quickly.
“Afghan leaders fled, and the Afghan army collapsed,” he said, referring to President Ashraf Ghani leaving the country, and the Afghan forces capitulating to the Taliban across the country. “Any US decision on Afghanistan was the right decision,” he said.
“Americans should not die and fight in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for,” he said, adding that the US equipped the Afghan forces with the most modern weapons, gave them salaries, provided air support and gave every chance to them to turn around the future. “What we could not give them is the will to fight”.
“If Afghans are unable to fight, there is no chance that the US military boots on the ground would have made any difference. I believe that to my core.”
“It is wrong to make the US forces to stand up to something the Afghan forces could not.”
He described as “gut wrenching scenes” in Afghanistan, where the people have been trying to flee the country after the Taliban took over, and added that while he is sad over the developments in Afghanistan, he has “no regrets”.
He also said that countries like China would like to see the US endlessly involved in Afghanistan, and spending billions of dollars and efforts there.
He added that the messy situation in Afghanistan was not entirely unexpected.
Biden also said that during a talk with Ghani in June he had conveyed to him that there was no military solution and that he should go for a political solution. But Ghani insisted that the government forces would fight it out.
He said Ghani didn’t do anything that he had suggested to him.