Fiercely defending the shambolic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US President said there’s nothing China or Russia would prefer than having America bogged down another decade in Afghanistan, but his fundamental obligation is to defend and protect America, “not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”
While asserting that the US had largely succeeded in what it set out to do in Afghanistan, namely to eliminate the terrorist threat to the homeland, Biden said Washington would still keep an eye out for terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries.
“We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground, very few if needed,” he said.
“Moving on from that mind-set (of nation building abroad) and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home,” he added.
The US President’s address came amid unrelenting criticism at home over the botched withdrawal that has seen scores of Americans and thousands of their Afghan allies left behind in Afghanistan amid reports of reprisal killings by the Taliban of those who collaborated with western forces.
Among the many poignant stories was one involving an Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden and two other lawmakers in a 2008 snowstorm, who is pleading to be rescued. (The White House has since pledged to get him out).
But Biden maintained that most Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan had been airlifted, and most of the 100 to 200 Americans remaining there are dual citizens, longtime residents who had decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.
The US President also blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for the fiasco saying he (Biden) inherited an agreement with the Taliban to remove US troops by May 1, just months after he was inaugurated.
“It included no requirement that Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government. But it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan,” he pointed out, adding that by the time he came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.
Biden speech came on the heels of a Pew Research poll showing a majority of Americans (54 per cent) supporting the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but only 27 percent rating Biden’s handling of the situation as “excellent” or “good.” A separate ABC poll showed 59 percent respondents disapproving Biden’s handling of the withdrawal.
The US President is also facing intense criticism over his participation and remarks at the dignified transfer ceremony honoring slain US military personnel on Monday, with reports of his being at the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from victim’s families circulating the right wing media.
The reports also alleged he spoke more about his own son Beau rather than showing empathy for the victims’ families, while visuals caught him glancing at his watch during the transfer ceremony.