Biden Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal Amid Taliban Gaining Ground

Biden Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal Amid Taliban Gaining Ground

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
July 8, 2021

President Biden delivered a forceful defense of his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, insisting there was nothing more the United States could do or could be accomplished by remaining after a long two decades of war.

"We achieved those objectives, that's why we went. We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build, and it's the right and responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country," Biden said. "Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely."

“Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more — how many thousands more Americans, daughters, and sons — are you willing to risk? I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome," Biden added.

Biden addressed the nation about his decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan despite the growing threat from the Taliban. However, the process had moved faster than anticipated, with most designated troops are expected to leave in the next few days. U.S. Central Command announced Tuesday that the drawdown is more than 90% complete and handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military.

When asked following remarks if he was declaring "mission accomplished," Biden said, "There’s no mission accomplished."

"The mission was accomplished in that we got Osama bin Laden, and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world," Biden added.

Biden, who met Thursday morning with his national security team on the deteriorating security situation on the ground also pledged to evacuate 2,500 Afghan interpreters as well as their families. The president said the process doesn't allow the U.S. to help Afghan translators evacuate to the U.S. as they await their visa processing – although illegal immigrants are migrating at an alarming 20-year high to the U.S. southern border.

"Because the law doesn’t allow that to happen," Biden said. "And that’s why we’re asking Congress to consider changing the law. But in the meantime, we can guarantee their safety if they wish to leave by taking them to third countries."

Lawmakers and veterans have been demand presidential action from Biden to help thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. military as translators and are now being left behind. The Biden administration notified lawmakers that the U.S. would soon begin relocating thousands of Afghan translators to third countries as they wait for the processing of their special immigrant visas. However, congressional members on both sides of the aisle have yet to receive details.

The special immigrant visa program was created under the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act that was designed to provide expedited visa processing for Afghans and Iraqis who worked as interpreters and translators for U.S. forces. As of this year, only 50 visas have been authorized, as more than 17,000 eligible Afghans currently remain in the corrupt country.  It takes the State Department more than 800 days on average to process just one visa — eight times longer than the number of days left until the U.S. military is scheduled to leave Afghanistan.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) said "the Biden administration has failed to formulate a comprehensive plan," adding "blood will be on [Biden's] hands” if he does order an evacuation for Afghan interpreters and their families.

A former Green Beret, Waltz who relied on Afghan interpreters while serving there said that Biden’s promises amounted to "a lot of rhetoric" without specific details.

"We’re talking a few thousand here who have worked with Americans for years and been extensively vetted already. It makes no sense. It’s infuriating," Waltz said. "Time has run out, and these people are being hunted down as we speak."

During a White House press briefing prior to Biden's remarks, press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say what the US would do if Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, admitting the administration is aware of the likelihood of increased violence

“I’m not going to get into a hypothetical question,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing, swatting away a question on whether “the president [would] consider sending US troops back into Afghanistan” if the Taliban defeat the US-allied government.

"We did exactly what we intended to do … however, there is not a benefit, in our view, in continuing to fight this war militarily," Psaki said.

Biden committed in April to pull U.S troops from Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US military vacated Bagram Airfield near Kabul last week as part of a final withdrawal set to be completed in August. Bagram is Afghanistan’s largest airfield and was the focal point of America's 20-year war campaign to remove the Taliban from government and keep the country’s fragile elected government as well as the place to track and pinpoint Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda contingents hideaway location.

However, the Pentagon apparently failed to notify their Afghan counterparts that they had left the base, thus giving looters the precious time to swipe much of the treasure trove of armory and ammunitions meant for Afghan troops, as well as damaging the base before Afghanistan's army could assume control.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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