Saturday, July 2, 2022

US President Joe Biden says US mission in Afghanistan was never nation building

He says it was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said Afghanistan is not America’s problem and their mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. ‘It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy,” he said after unrest and chaos gripped Afghanistan following Taliban takeover.

He said his national security team have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans they had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse everyone is seeing now.

He said the US 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 again. “We did that,” he said.

The US 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,” said the President asserting, “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.”

He said the US 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, he said stressing why he opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when he 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,” he said.

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,” said the President adding 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,” he said.

He said that when  he took over he 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 he took office.

US 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,” he said.

There was no agreement protecting US 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  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,” he said.

He said that after 20 years he has learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US 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,” he said.

He also accepted that this chaos did unfold more quickly than they 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,” he argued.

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,” he said.

US 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, he asserted.

“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,” he said

“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,” he said.
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 US hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when he spoke by phone to Ghani in July, they 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,” he said.
“They failed to do any of that,” he asserted.
I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.   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?, he questioned.
He said he will will not repeat the mistakes US have 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 US forces.
Those are the mistakes US cannot continue to repeat, because US have significant vital interests in the world that US cannot afford to ignore.
Acknowledge how painful it is to see scenes 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,” he said.
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,” he said.
He said he will continue to support the Afghan people and will lead with diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid.
“We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability,” he said.
Talking about current situation he said he authorized 6,000 US troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of US and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate US 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,” he said.
He said that US have safely shut down our embassy and transferred diplomats.
“Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan,” he said.

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