Biden blames Afghan leadership, says forces lacked 'will to fight' in his first public comments since Kabul fell to the Taliban
- Biden on Monday addressed the Afghanistan crisis for the first time since the Taliban stormed Kabul.
- The president sought to shift blame to the Afghan government, saying it lacked the "will to fight."
- "I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden declared in his speech.
President Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday afternoon for the first time since Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to Taliban forces on Sunday.
Biden began his speech by recalling the original goals of the American combat role in Afghanistan, including the capture of Osama bin Laden.
"Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building," he said, adding that the goal was ultimately counterterrorism.
"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden declared. "After 20 years, I learned the hard way that there was never a good way to withdraw our forces."
Biden also blamed Afghanistan's political leadership for the collapse of the government and the ensuing chaos. "We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we couldn't provide them was the will to fight for that future."
"I will not repeat the mistakes we've made in the past," he said.
"We have made it clear to the Taliban: if they attack our personnel, or disrupt our operation, the US presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful," Biden said.
Amidst the ongoing crisis, he said that the American diplomatic presence in the country was now "consolidated at the airport" but the scenes coming from the country were "gut-wrenching." He sought to assure Americans that evacuations from Kabul airport would continue.
"Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan, he said. He said that more Afghan refugees would be evacuated in the coming days, but also defended his decision not to evacuate Afghan refugees sooner, saying that the Afghan government discouraged causing a "mass exodus" that would trigger a "crisis of confidence."
Ultimately, Biden framed the decision to leave Afghanistan as one that the American people want, and that Biden has a responsibility to carry out.
"I am president of the United States and the buck stops with me. I'm deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America's war fighting in Afghanistan," he said. "This is not in our national-security interest. This is not what the American people want."
Following the speech, Biden is reportedly headed back to Camp David.
-Fin Gómez (@finnygo) August 16, 2021
The Taliban took control of cities across Afghanistan in recent weeks, and conquered Kabul on Sunday as President Ashraf Ghani said in a Facebook post that he had fled the country.
Photos and videos showed Taliban fighters taking over the presidential palace, carrying guns, and reciting lines from the Quran, Islam's holy book.
Since the Taliban stormed the city, Kabul residents have tried to force themselves onto planes out of the country, causing chaos on airport runways.
Biden announced a full withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan in April.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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