President Joe Biden on Monday defended his administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.
The exit of U.S. and NATO forces from the country prompted the Taliban to take over the country in a matter of weeks, with the capital Kabul being the most recent city to fall. Speaking from the White House on Monday, Biden said the Afghan government’s swift defeat only reinforced the argument that ending U.S. military involvement in the country 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,” he said. He continued that, in his assessment, if Afghanistan is unable to mount a defense against the Taliban now, “there is no chance” that extending U.S. military presence in the country would have made any difference.
Panic set it for many Afghans over the swift exit of U.S. troops and the advancement of Taliban rule. This was evidenced by thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, attempting to flee the country as Taliban forces are taking control of the capital city.
Some clung to the side of the U.S. military plane before takeoff, in a widely shared video that captured the desperation as America’s 20-year war comes to a chaotic end.
Another video showed the Afghans falling as the plane gained altitude over Kabul. U.S. troops resorted to firing warning shots and using helicopters to clear a path for transport aircraft.
The Pentagon confirmed Monday that U.S. forces shot and killed two individuals it said were armed, as Biden ordered another battalion of troops — about 1,000 — to secure the airfield, which was closed to arrivals and departures for hours Monday because of civilians on the runway.
The speed of the Afghan government’s collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Biden as commander in chief, and he came under withering criticism from Republicans who said he had failed.
Biden expressed confidence in his decision to proceed with the withdrawal and said he was prepared to take the heat.
He said he was “deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision.”
Biden campaigned as a seasoned expert in international relations and has spent months downplaying the prospect of an ascendant Taliban while arguing that Americans of all political persuasions have tired of a 20-year war, a conflict that demonstrated the limits of money and military might to force a Western-style democracy on a society not ready or willing to embrace it.