‘We did not go into Afghanistan to nation-build,’ says Biden as he defends U.S. military withdrawal

The U.S. military mission in the country will end on August 31

July 09, 2021 12:02 am | Updated November 22, 2021 10:06 pm IST - Washington

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan, in Washington on July 8, 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan, in Washington on July 8, 2021.

With U.S. troops almost completely out of Afghanistan and the Taliban making rapid territorial gains in the country,  U.S. President Joe Biden said that the U.S. was not in Afghanistan for nation-building purposes and that it was for the Afghans to decide their future.  Mr. Biden also said that the U.S. military mission would conclude by August 31.

The manner and speed with which the U.S. military is pulling out after a twenty year presence in the country has been criticised , with looming concerns about whether the current Afghan government can withstand the Taliban and the consequences for the peace, security, and the future of women and girls.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden said the U.S. had achieved what it had gone into Afghanistan to do ,including preventing it from becoming a base from which the U.S. could be attacked.

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it's the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future, and how they want to run their country,” he said, speaking on the troop drawdown from the East Room of the White House.

On the August 31 deadline, Mr. Biden said, “speed is safety,” adding that no U.S. of allied forces had been lost in the drawdown.

Also read: What lies ahead for Afghanistan after U.S. exit?

“ There was never any doubt that our military performed this task efficiently and with the highest level of professionalism,”  he said. Yet, A merican troops left Bagram Airfield last week - their largest base in Afghanistan -  in the dead of night, without informing the Afghans, according to the base’s new commander. The place was looted before Afghan troops could take it over.

“Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more?” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. “How many thousands more American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?”

To those who had worked with the U.S. side in Afghanistan, such as drivers and translators and their families, Mr. Biden said, “There is a home for you in the United States, if you so choose. And we will stand with you, just as you stood with us.” The administration  has said it is moving people who worked with the U.S. and who are interested in relocating to America to third countries while they await visas.

Biden Calls on Countries in the Region to Step Up Efforts to Broker Peace

Mr. Biden said the U.S. was going to work with the parties in Afghanistan as well as other countries to support a negotiated solution to end the violence.

“To be clear, to be clear, countries in the region have an essential role to play in supporting a peaceful settlement, we'll work with them, and they should help step up their efforts as well,” he said.

Also read: Political, economic support will continue after U.S. troops leave: Biden tells Afghan leaders

Asked if a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable, Mr. Biden answered in the negative, pointing to the relative strength of the Afghan forces in terms of troop numbers, training and equipment. 

U.S. Intelligence Did Not Conclude that Afghan Govt. Would Fall : Biden

Mr. Biden also denied that the U.S. intelligence community had told him that the Afghan government would collapse.

“That is not true. They did not reach that conclusion,” he said. The American press carried reports last month, citing unnamed sources saying that the U.S. intelligence community had determined that the Afghan government could fall within six months of U.S. troop retrenchment.

When asked what level of confidence the intelligence community has that the Afghan government would not collapse, Mr. Biden said that while Afghan leadership and government  have the capacity, the forces and the equipment to sustain the government in place , whether they could generate the cohesion to continue was in question.

“The question is: will they do it?  I want to make clear what I made clear to [ Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani , that we are not going to walk away and not sustain their ability to maintain that force. We are. We're gonna also work to make sure we help them in terms of everything from food necessities and other things in the region,” Mr. Biden said, adding that his own conclusion was that peace could be achieved only if the Afghan government finds a  modus vivendi  with the Taliban.

“And the likelihood there's going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely,” he said.

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