US President Joe Biden on Thursday rejected the idea that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is “inevitable”, even as Taliban forces mocked the exit of “defeated” US troops and gained more territory.
Biden defended his decision to withdraw from the 20-year “forever” war amid multiple reports of a deteriorating security situation in the country, reports The Hill.
The Wall Street Journal last month reported on an intelligence assessment predicting that the Afghan government could fall as soon as six months after US forces withdraw from the war-torn country.
“Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many thousands more Americans’ daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?” Biden said during an impassioned speech from the White House.
“Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Would you send their children or their grandchildren, as well? Would you send your own son or daughter?” he asked.
Biden also confirmed the US military mission will end Aug 31, ahead of his original Sept 11 deadline.
“Speed is safety,” he said. “Conducting our drawdown differently would have certainly come with increased risk to our personnel. To me, those risks were unacceptable.”
But as the US withdrawal nears its end, Taliban gains have accelerated, raising fears the insurgents will soon overrun Kabul after the US departs.
Critics have compared the situation to the fall of Saigon in 1975 which ended what the Vietnamese still call The American War, but Biden rejected those comparisons.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability,” Biden said. “You’re not going to see people being lifted off the roof of the US embassy in Afghanistan.”
He has insisted that US support for Afghanistan will not end with the military mission there. He hosted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani two weeks ago prior to the start of the withdrawal as a show of US support.
The president said it is not inevitable that Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban, saying that the Afghan army is as “well equipped as any army in the world” to fend off the Taliban.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” he said.
He insisted that the objectives of the US mission in Afghanistan had been achieved: that international terrorism was not emanating from Afghanistan, and that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
He rejected the notion that his speech represented a President Bush “mission accomplished” moment.
He also said it is up to the Afghan people to decide the fate of their country and said the US would not be responsible for civilian deaths in the country once troops leave.
“It’s up to the people of Afghanistan to decide on what government they want, not us to impose the government on them. No country has been able to do that,” he said.
“Never has Afghanistan been a united country, not in all of its history.”