As the Taliban form a new government and the world watches on in horror the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden gave a televised speech from the White House that may be seen as a defining moment of his presidency.
On Monday, the President cut his vacation short at Camp David and travelled back to the White House amid harsh criticism he received from around the world.
While the White House typically provides the press corps excerpts for the President’s speech, this time, this did not happen.
How did we get here?
Biden said that the U.S. went into Afghanistan 20 years ago with “clear goals” and that “our mission in Afghanistan was never nation building.” He claimed it was all about “preventing a terrorist attack, not nation-building”.
Biden focused his speech on two key components: terrorism and Donald Trump by hitting the emotional hotspots rooted in 9/11 and the Trump presidency.
“I stand firm by my decision,” Biden said unrepentantly. “We planned through every contingency,” Biden claimed despite the dramatic images coming out of Afghanistan in the past twenty four hours. He noted, though that “this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated.”
American troops, according to Biden, should not be ordered to step up when Afghan forces did not.
After the terrorism threat and Trump angle, Biden framed the argument to justify his decision around the proven U.S. enemies, Russia and China. He said that they “would love nothing more than for the U.S. to continue to funnel billions of dollars into Afghanistan indefinitely.”
President Biden revealed that advice given to President Ghani to negotiate was “flatly refused,” and that the Afghanistan president insisted his forces would fight the Taliban.
What is possible?
In a perfectly structured speech, Biden moved on to offer hope to Afghan people by saying that “We’ll continue to support the Afghan people and lead with our diplomacy” as well as “rallying the world to join us.”
The 6,000 U.S. troops Biden approved to be deployed to “secure the airfield” and take over the air traffic control is considerably more than the 2500 troops the US had in the country when the Trump administration opened dialogue with the Taliban about a potential withdrawal. The Saigon moment, Biden pitched as a success and the safe departure of the U.S. personnel, yet to be fulfilled.
Biden said that he made clear to the Taliban that the U.S. will “defend our people with devastating force if necessary” if the Taliban interfere with the ongoing evacuation.
“We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed,” said Biden adding that Afghanistan is known as “the graveyard of empires.”
The U.S. made many missteps in Afghanistan over the past two decades, acknowledged Biden. “I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth president,” he stated firmly.
“I know that my decision will be criticized,” said Biden, “but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States.”
Insisting that his decision is “the right one for our people,” Biden concluded his speech after talking for twenty minutes. According to a White House official, the vice president was watching President Biden speak from the Green Room.
President Biden left the podium in the East Room at 4:20 p.m. ET without taking any questions. He is slated to immediately resume his vacation by returning to Camp David. In standing by “his decision” and depending on how events unfold, Afghanistan may not only be the graveyard of empires, but also the defining moment of a presidency.
Question: Was the fall of Afghanistan a failure of the U.S. intelligence, or did President Biden’s politics overridden the intel?