WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan. Speaking about the chaotic situation in Kabul, Biden said he faced a choice between following an agreement to withdraw or sending thousands more U.S. troops for a “third decade” of war.
Biden spoke Monday after the planned withdrawal of American forces turned deadly at Kabul’s airport as thousands tried to flee following the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.
Biden returned to the White House from the Camp David presidential retreat to deliver his first public remarks on the situation in nearly a week.
Prior to the president's remarks Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement:
“The images from Afghanistan that we’ve seen in recent days are devastating. We went into Afghanistan to defeat al-Qa‘ida and eliminate their safe harbor after September 11, 2001. Two decades later, the price of our longest war has been tremendous. We’re on track to spend $2 trillion on a conflict that has cost 6,000 U.S. servicemembers and contractors their lives and returned tens of thousands of our fellow Americans from the battlefield with wounds both visible and invisible. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those brave men and women who have served in Afghanistan, many of whom are experiencing renewed pain and grief today as they grapple with traumatic images out of Kabul, thoughts of their fellow servicemembers, and fears for those alongside whom they fought.
At this moment, our top priorities must be the safety of American diplomats and other citizens in Afghanistan, and the extraction of Afghans who are at greatest risk, including those who bravely fought alongside our forces since 2001. The world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times. We must do everything we can to secure the airport in Kabul, restore evacuation flights, and allow our trusted Afghan partners to find safe haven in the United States or elsewhere before it is too late. We also cannot lose sight of the reason we were there in the first place and must continue to stay focused on potential threats to the United States posed by terror groups like the Haqqani network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS.
Intelligence officials have anticipated for years that in the absence of the U.S. military the Taliban would continue to make gains in Afghanistan. That is exactly what has happened as the Afghan National Security Forces proved unable or unwilling to defend against Taliban advances in Kabul and across the country. As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces. We owe those answers to the American people and to all those who served and sacrificed so much.”
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement:
"Biden's Afghanistan disaster has unleashed chaos, and the world and our adversaries have taken note. As this crisis unfolded on the streets of Kabul, risking American lives and costing the lives of Afghans who assisted our mission, Biden couldn't be bothered to cut his vacation short. As a result of Biden's failed withdrawal, Americans are less safe, adversaries are emboldened, and an international disaster has been created."
Congressman Bobby Scott (D - 03) issued the following statement:
“20 years ago, the United States entered Afghanistan to destroy the forces responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. We largely finished that work when the Obama-Biden Administration killed Osama Bin Laden and degraded al Qaeda.
Our servicemembers have been placed in harm’s way for the last 20 years in America’s longest war. Our nation has spent billions of dollars to train the Afghan military and provide resources to the Afghan government to prevent the Taliban from regaining control. It is now undeniably clear that President Biden is correct when he asserts that the events of the last few days were inevitable. American troops cannot be asked to stay mired in an endless civil war and be asked to sacrifice more American lives and resources, when it is clear the Afghan government could not and would not stand on its own, even after 20 years of training and support.
Many partisan voices are looking to use this moment as a political weapon, while not acknowledging that President Trump legitimized the Taliban as a governing force and established the timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The only thing that could have prevented the rapid advance of the Taliban would have been a surge of American troops. That would have led to a continuation of the endless war.
We must now protect all Americans and our allies that remain in the region. I appreciate the Biden Administration’s commitment to expand and improve the Special Immigrant Visa process, so we can provide a safe haven for as many Afghans as possible. Most importantly, I want to thank all of our veterans and servicemembers who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much to keep America safe.”
Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement:
What we are seeing unfold in Afghanistan is devastating. At this time, we must do everything we can to prioritize the evacuation of U.S. personnel, Afghan partners, journalists, women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, and others.
The U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001 to defeat those who attacked the U.S. on 9/11, and 10 years later, we found and killed Osama bin Laden. We stayed an additional decade to help train Afghan security forces and create conditions for a more stable future in that country.
While I believe it is now time to bring our troops home, we also must continue working to maintain humanitarian and diplomatic support for Afghanistan to ensure the country does not again become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.
This is a developing story.