President Biden blames Afghan leaders, forces for crisis

Says US troops cannot fight a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves: Defends US pullout despite panic in Kabul

By: AFP      Published: 02:01 AM, 17 Aug, 2021
President Biden blames Afghan leaders, forces for crisis
US President Joe Biden defends his military pullout plan and blames post-war crisis on runaway President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan army.–AFP

US President Joe Biden said Monday that a longer war in Afghanistan would have benefited China and Russia, even as his top diplomat consulted the two adversaries on the swift Taliban victory.

"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 in stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely," Biden said in a nationwide address as he staunchly defended his decision to pull troops.

However, President Biden admitted that the collapse of Afghanistan’s civil government unfolded “more quickly than we had anticipated,” conceding a miscalculation in the administration’s withdraw from the two-decade-long war.

“We were clear-eyed about the risks, we planned for every contingency, but I always promised the American people that I would be straight with you,” he said. “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden added.

The President then continued the administration’s efforts to shift the blame onto Afghan leaders for the fall of Kabul, saying the political leaders “gave up and fled the country.”

“So, what happened?” Biden asked. “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.”

Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday for Tajikistan, two sources told CNN.

“The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments in the past week reinforced ending that US military involvement Afghanistan now was the right decision,” he added. “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.”

Biden also pointed the finger at Ghani in his speech. “When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah, at the White House in June, and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the US military departed, to clean up the corruption in government, so the government could function for the Afghan people,” Biden said.

He continued, “We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically — they failed to do any of that. I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. And obviously he was wrong.”

President Biden defended the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after the Taliban's stunning military takeover that triggered panic in Kabul with thousands mobbing the airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

In his first public appearance since the insurgents seized control of the country at the weekend, he admitted the Taliban advance had unfolded more quickly than expected.

Heaping criticism at the Western-backed government that was ousted with shockingly little resistance, he said US troops could not defend a nation whose leaders "gave up and fled", as did President Ashraf Ghani.

"We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future," Biden said in his address at the White House. "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 are afraid' -

The Taliban captured Kabul, and most other main cities, with little bloodshed.

But in the capital, panic gripped many residents who feared a repeat of the Taliban's brutal Islamist rule from 1996 to 2001.

At the airport, thousands of Afghans scrambled to board the few flights available. "We are afraid to live in this city," a 25-year-old ex-soldier told AFP as he stood among huge crowds on the tarmac. "Since I served in the army, the Taliban would definitely target me."

The United States has sent 6,000 troops to ensure the safe evacuation of embassy staff, as well as Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other support roles.

Other governments including France, Germany and Australia also organised charter flights.

On Monday, dramatic footage posted on social media showed hundreds of men running alongside a US Air Force plane as it rolled down the runway, with some clinging to the side of it. 

In other videos, civilians frantically clambered up an already overcrowded and buckling jetway.

One picture carried by US media showed a jam-packed US military transport plane purportedly with about 640 Afghans on board -- some of whom climbed onto the half-open ramp at the last minute and were allowed aboard.

- 'Nightmare for women' -

Taliban fighters have taken over checkpoints across Kabul, and militants with rifles slung over their shoulders walked through the streets of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified district that houses most embassies and international organisations.

Ghani's departure on Sunday finalised the collapse of his government. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

The Taliban sought to reassure the international community that Afghans should not fear them, with co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar saying the militants needed to show that they could "serve our nation and ensure security".

But many Afghans struggled to take comfort from such assurances.

"It is a nightmare for educated women who envisioned a brighter future for themselves and generations to come," Aisha Khurram, a former youth representative to the UN, told AFP.

The State Department said any US ties with a Taliban government would depend on their respect of human rights and rejection of extremism.

Biden issued a stern warning to the Taliban, saying any threats to US interests would be met with a "devastating" military response.

China, meanwhile, was the first major nation to flag support for the Taliban, stating it was ready for "friendly relations". 

Both Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

- 'World is watching' -

Critics say the US reputation as a global power has been badly tarnished by the Taliban's victory, nearly 20 years after they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion over their support for Al-Qaeda.

But Washington has insisted that its two decades of war in Afghanistan was a success, defined by quashing the Al-Qaeda threat.

Russia and China

Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken nonetheless discussed Afghanistan with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, both of which have moved quickly to work with the Taliban.

Russia said Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Moscow's outreach to various Afghan political forces that is aimed at "helping ensure stability and public order."

The two "agreed to continue consultations with the participation of China, Pakistan and other interested nations to establish the right conditions to begin an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue under the new conditions," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Both Russia and China stepped up contacts with the Taliban after the United States decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year military involvement and setting off the swift crumbling of the government in Kabul.

Moscow, which in Soviet times spent a decade in a costly occupation of Afghanistan during which it battled Islamic guerrillas then backed by Washington, has kept its embassy open in Kabul and plans discussions with the Taliban.

Russia has said it sees the Taliban "restoring order," while China said Monday it wanted "friendly and cooperative" relations" with Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Blinken that Beijing sought an "open and inclusive political framework."

"China stands ready to communicate with the United States to push for a soft landing of the Afghan issue, so that a new civil war or humanitarian disaster will be prevented in Afghanistan and the country will not relapse into a hotbed and shelter for terrorism," Wang said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

China, which according to human rights groups has incarcerated more than one million mostly Muslim people from the Uyghur and other minorities in a campaign Washington considers genocide, is eager to stop Islamic radicalism on its soil and is allied with Pakistan, the Taliban's historic backer.

Blinken also spoke Monday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and since Sunday has spoken to counterparts from key allies including Britain, France and Germany, the State Department said.

US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad regularly consulted Russia and China during his unsuccessful diplomacy to encourage a peaceful power-sharing agreement as the United States withdrew.

Biden blames Afghan leaders, forces for crisis

Says US troops cannot fight a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves: Defends US pullout despite panic in Kabul

US President Joe Biden said Monday that a longer war in Afghanistan would have benefited China and Russia, even as his top diplomat consulted the two adversaries on the swift Taliban victory.

"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 in stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely," Biden said in a nationwide address as he staunchly defended his decision to pull troops.

However, President Biden admitted that the collapse of Afghanistan’s civil government unfolded “more quickly than we had anticipated,” conceding a miscalculation in the administration’s withdraw from the two-decade long war.

“We were clear eyed about the risks, we planned for every contingency, but I always promised the American people that I would be straight with you,” he said. “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden added.

The President then continued the administration’s efforts to shift the blame onto Afghan leaders for the fall of Kabul, saying the political leaders “gave up and fled the country.”

“So, what happened?” Biden asked. “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.”

Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday for Tajikistan, two sources told CNN.

“The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments in the past week reinforced ending that US military involvement Afghanistan now was the right decision,” he added. “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.”

Biden also pointed the finger at Ghani in his speech. “When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah, at the White House in June, and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the US military departed, to clean up the corruption in government, so the government could function for the Afghan people,” Biden said.

He continued, “We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically — they failed to do any of that. I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. And obviously he was wrong.”

President Biden defended the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after the Taliban's stunning military takeover that triggered panic in Kabul with thousands mobbing the airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

In his first public appearance since the insurgents seized control of the country at the weekend, he admitted the Taliban advance had unfolded more quickly than expected.

Heaping criticism at the Western-backed government that was ousted with shockingly little resistance, he said US troops could not defend a nation whose leaders "gave up and fled", as did President Ashraf Ghani.

"We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future," Biden said in his address at the White House. "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."

Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken nonetheless discussed Afghanistan with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, both of which have moved quickly to work with the Taliban.

Russia said Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Moscow's outreach to various Afghan political forces that is aimed at "helping ensure stability and public order."

The two "agreed to continue consultations with the participation of China, Pakistan and other interested nations to establish the right conditions to begin an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue under the new conditions," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Both Russia and China stepped up contacts with the Taliban after the United States decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year military involvement and setting off the swift crumbling of the government in Kabul.

Moscow, which in Soviet times spent a decade in a costly occupation of Afghanistan during which it battled Islamic guerrillas then backed by Washington, has kept its embassy open in Kabul and plans discussions with the Taliban.

Russia has said it sees the Taliban "restoring order," while China said Monday it wanted "friendly and cooperative" relations" with Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Blinken that Beijing sought an "open and inclusive political framework."

"China stands ready to communicate with the United States to push for a soft landing of the Afghan issue, so that a new civil war or humanitarian disaster will be prevented in Afghanistan and the country will not relapse into a hotbed and shelter for terrorism," Wang said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

China, which according to human rights groups has incarcerated more than one million mostly Muslim people from the Uyghur and other minorities in a campaign Washington considers genocide, is eager to stop Islamic radicalism on its soil and is allied with Pakistan, the Taliban's historic backer.

Blinken also spoke Monday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and since Sunday has spoken to counterparts from key allies including Britain, France and Germany, the State Department said.

US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad regularly consulted Russia and China during his unsuccessful diplomacy to encourage a peaceful power-sharing agreement as the United States withdrew.