US President Joe Biden believes history will judge the US experience in Afghanistan as one where it “overextended” its stay to deal with its national interest.
At a time when roughly two-thirds of Americans say they think the Afghanistan war wasn’t worth fighting, Biden stood his ground on his decision to exit Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the September 11 attacks.
“Are we gonna go to war because of what’s goin’ on in Tajikistan? What do you think?”, Biden told ABC News in a wide ranging interview on America’s exit from its longest war.
“I think the American people are with me,” Biden told ABC News. “And when you unite that country, what do you have?,” he asked. “They’re surrounded by Russia in the north or the Stans in the north. You have– to the west, they have Iran. To the south, they have Pakistan, who’s supporting them. And to the– and– actually, the east, they have Pakistan and China. Tell me. Tell me. Is that worth our national interest to continue to spend another $1 trillion and lose thousands more American lives? For what?”
On Biden’s watch, the two-decade war in Afghanistan ended with the Taliban storming back to power and capturing the capital city of Kabul at lightning speed.
Asked whether the humanitarian crisis spilling over in Afghanistan is a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment, Biden struggled to frame neat answers. Yet, he did not budge from his central theme that America’s job there was done, at least a decade ago.
“There is no good time to leave Afghanistan,” Biden said when asked if he would have acted differently if his predecessor Donald Trump had not set a May 1 deadline for troop withdrawal from the country.
Trump signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020 and declared that “we think we’ll be successful in the end.” Ever since Kabul fell to the Taliban, Biden has been pointing to the agreement Trump signed in Qatar as the thing that bound him to withdrawal and the subsequent chaos. The agreement called for the US to cut down its forces from 13,000 to to 8,600 in the first phase and for the remaining troops to exit by May 1.
“Fifteen years ago would’ve been a problem, 15 years from now. The basic choice is am I gonna send your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan in perpetuity?” Biden told ABC News.
(Nikhila Natarajan is on Twitter @byniknat)