Biden remarks on Afghanistan

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    • #440648
      • Total Posts: 5,343

      Copied in full from as government record.

      4:02 P.M. EDT

      THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I want to speak today to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan: the developments that have taken place in the last week and the steps we’re taking to address the rapidly evolving events.

      My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.

      I’ll speak more in a moment about the specific steps we’re taking, but I want to remind everyone how we got here and what America’s interests are in Afghanistan.

      We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.

      We did that. We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.

      Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.

      Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

      I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency or nation building. That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was Vice President.

      And that’s why, as President, I am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021 — not yesterday’s threats.

      Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

      We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.

      If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan. We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.

      When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office.

      U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

      The choice I had to make, as your President, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.

      There would have been no ceasefire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.

      There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict.

      I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

      That’s why we were still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency.

      But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

      So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

      If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.

      American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.

      We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support.

      We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.

      There’s some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers, but if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that 1 year — 1 more year, 5 more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.

      And here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.

      And our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

      When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically.

      They failed to do any of that.

      I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

      So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

      I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.

      Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat, because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

      I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people.

      For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and for Americans who have fought and served in the country — serve our country in Afghanistan — this is deeply, deeply personal.

      It is for me as well. I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone. I’ve been throughout Afghanistan during this war — while the war was going on — from Kabul to Kandahar to the Kunar Valley.

      I’ve traveled there on four different occasions. I met with the people. I’ve spoken to the leaders. I spent time with our troops. And I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.

      So, now we’re fercus [sic] — focused on what is possible.

      We will continue to support the Afghan people. We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid.

      We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.

      We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people — of women and girls — just as we speak out all over the world.

      I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery. But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments; it’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us.

      Now, let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan. I was asked to authorize — and I did — 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.

      Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights. We’re taking over air traffic control.

      We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats. Our dip- — our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well.

      Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan.

      We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel — the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.

      Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States.

      In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.

      We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: U.S. non-governmental agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.

      I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country. And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”

      American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks.

      As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful. We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.

      Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible.

      And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.

      The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”

      What is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future. We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps — made many missteps over the past two decades.

      I’m now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibly on — responsibility on to a fifth President.

      I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.

      I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

      I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face. But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.

      Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success.

      Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.

      I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another — in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.

      This is not in our national security interest. It is not what the American people want. It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.

      I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for President that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.

      More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago.

      Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan.

      I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one.

      Because it’s the right one — it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who have risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America.

      So, thank you. May God protect our troops, our diplomats, and all of the brave Americans serving in harm’s way.

      4:21 P.M. EDT

    • #440651
      • Total Posts: 7,252

      Sure, it was our own ass, but we kicked it real good.

    • #440653
      • Total Posts: 1,790

      I was waiting to see if he would take questions from the press. Nope. He turned away and left.

      I liked his speech, overall — “The buck stops with me.” But it did sound to me like Biden is planning on launching missiles on any number of countries. To me, that would be a big mistake — a big mistake for any empire. People around the world might admire us, but they also envy us. We don’t want to turn that envy into anger and hate.

      • #440766
        • Total Posts: 5,343

        I know they did at the end of the cold war, but now?

        They see mass shootings, destruction from mass protests, bridges that fall down, unaffordable housing costs, unaffordable healthcare and healthcare bankruptcies, the decline of science and education, and trillions spent invading and bombing the rest of the world rather than US citizens.

        My former Soviet fiancee is afraid to come to Portland – she’s seen the news over the last few years.


    • #440654
      • Total Posts: 5,196

      Yeah, that’s a nice soundbite, Joe. Now let’s see you put it into action, Mr. “Buck Stops Here”.

      Because this entire Afghan clusterfuck exists BECAUSE a Chimp repeated the mistakes made in Korea & Vietnam. And he did so with the encouragement of every DLC Corporatist NeoLiberal fake “Democrat” in the Senate, including yourself, Joe.

      But let’s not just apply your soundbite to Afghanistan. Why don’t you stop repeating the mistakes made in the past domestically, as well?

      Like the economic policies that were proven to be a serious FAILURE 40 years ago, yet you continue to support them. Just like your friends Bill & Barry did.

      Like the massive increase in student debt, largely caused by the bill YOU wrote in 2005. If there’s one mistake you should definitely own, that one stands out.

      Like the health care policies that were slightly tweaked by Barry, but still revolve around corporate insurance predators. If the reality of that system being a dismal failure wasn’t pounded into your head by the COVID Pandemic, then you truly must be as senile as you appear to be in some of your public appearances.

      So do what you said Joe. Stop repeating the mistakes of the past. ALL of them.

      "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable". - John F. Kennedy

    • #440662
      • Total Posts: 244

      “We meant to do that.”

      We control events, they don’t control us.

    • #440756
      Ohio Barbarian
      • Total Posts: 21,764

      The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”

      That statement is 100% truthful, the best reason never to have invaded in the first place, and the best reason for leaving now. On CBS this morning, they showed excerpts of Biden’s speech above, but not this part. The reason why was made clear right after their 1 minute excerpt of Biden’s speech, when they trotted out JR McMaster, a general who fucked up in Afghanistan and then was one of Trump’s many national security advisers, ramble on for ten minutes about how leaving Afghanistan makes America and the world less safe, and how inexpensive it was to just stay there forever.

      Yah. Forever. Literally. The CBS reporter asked him if he thought we should stay there forever and the bastard said Yes.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

      • #440780
        • Total Posts: 305

        Seems McMaster has a different definition of “inexpensive”  than I do.

    • #440759
      • Total Posts: 244

      Yes, there is wisdom in the phrase about the “graveyard of empires.”
      Remembering something you may not hear anywhere else and I never heard anywhere else: My 8th grade Spanish teacher had lived in Cuba for a while, though, as far as I know he was an American. He said (this was about 1968 when he said it) that in Cuba during those years there were banners or billboards saying in Spanish, “Create one, two, many Viet Nams”.
      One problem with our MIC is they probably agree with the sentiment. I wonder how safe Biden is if he lets some awareness of Empire limitations be expressed in his speeches. Probably special occasion, this one–speech trying to say, yeah this was a shocking spectacle of a retreat, but we are (I am) a better President than those guys.

    • #440763
      • Total Posts: 86

      Terrorist in Chief and the whole cabal.

      “But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and … (wait for it,) …

      maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.”

      NOT DONE.

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