tv President Biden on Afghanistan Withdrawal CSPAN July 8, 2021 7:32pm-8:02pm EDT
♪ >> president biden announced u.s. military operations in afghanistan will officially conclude by the end of august, almost 20 years from the time they initially started. he spoke in more detail about the u.s. troop withdrawal before answering questions from white house reporters. this is about 30 minutes.
pres. biden: good afternoon. earlier today, i was briefed by our senior military and national security leaders on the status of the drawdown of u.s. forces and allied forces in afghanistan. when i announced our drawdown in april, i said we would be out by september. we are on track to meet that target. excuse me. our military mission in afghanistan will conclude on august 31. the drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our
troops as they depart. our military commanders advised me that once i made the decision to end the war, we need to do it swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown. in this context, speed is safety. thanks to the way in which we have managed our withdrawal, no one u.s. forces or any forces have been lost. conducting our drawdown differently would have come with an increased risk of safety to our personnel. to me, those risks were unacceptable. there was never any doubt our military performed this task efficiently and with the highest level of professionalism. that is what they do. the same is true of our nato allies and partners who we are supporting and are supporting us as well as they conclude. i want to be clear. the u.s. military mission in afghanistan continues through the end of august.
we retain personnel and capacity in the country. we maintain some authority -- the same authority under which we have been operating for some time. as i said in april, the united states did what we wanted to do in afghanistan. to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and delivered justice to osama bin laden. and to degrade the terrorist threat from becoming afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base. we achieved those objectives. that is why we went. we did not go to afghanistan to nation build. it is the right and the responsibility of the afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country. together, with our nato allies and partners, we have trained and equipped over -- nearly
300,000 current serving members of the afghan security force. and many beyond that to our no longer serving. after that, hundreds of thousands more afghan national defense security forces trained over the last two decades. we provided our afghan partners with all the tools, trained equipment, of any modern military. we provided advanced weaponry. we are going to continue to provide funding and equipment and will ensure they have the capacity to maintain their air force. most critically, as i stressed in my meeting two weeks ago, afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future that the afghan people want and they deserve. in our meeting, i also assured that u.s. support for the people of afghanistan will endure. we will continue to provide
civilian and humanitarian assistance, including speaking out for the rights of women and girls. i intend to maintain our diplomatic presence in afghanistan and we are coordinating closely with our international partners to continue to secure the international airport. we are going to engage in a determined diplomacy to pursue peace and a peace agreement that will end this senseless violence. i have asked secretary of state blinken and our special representative for afghanistan reconciliation to work vigorously with the parties in afghanistan as well as the regional and international stakeholders for support on negotiated solutions. to be clear, countries in the region have a role to play in supporting a peaceful settlement. we will work with them. and they should help step up their efforts as well. we are going to continue to work for the release of detained
americans including -- i want to pronounce the name correctly. so he can return to his family safely. we are also going to ensure we take on afghan nationals who work side-by-side with u.s. forces and translators. since we are no longer going to have military thereafter this. we are also going to -- they have been very vital. and so their families are not exposed to danger. we have accelerated the procedure time for special immigrant visas to bring them to the united states. since i was inaugurated, we have already approved 2500 special immigrant visas to come to the united states. fewer than half have exercised the right to do that. half believe they want to stay, at least thus far. we are working closely with
congress to change the authorization legislation so we can streamline the process of approving those visas. those who have stood up for the operation to physically relocate thousands of afghans and their families before the u.s. military mission concludes so that if they choose they can , wait safely outside of afghanistan while their u.s. visas are being processed. the operation has identified u.s. facilities outside the continental united states to host our allies if they so choose. starting this month, we are going to begin relocation flights for afghanistan sib applicants and their families who choose to leave. we have a point person in the white house and the state department led task force coordinating these efforts. but our message to those women and men is clear. there is a home for you in the
united states, if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us. when i made the decision to end the u.s. military involvement in afghanistan, i judged it was not in the national interest of the united states of america to continue fighting this war indefinitely. i made the decision with clear eyes. i am briefed daily on the battlefield updates. for those who argued we should stay six more months or one more year, i asked them to consider the lessons of recent history. in 2011, the nato allies and partners agreed we would end our combat mission in 2014. in 2014, some argued one more year, so we kept fighting. we kept taking casualties. in 2015, the same, and on and on. nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms just one more year of fighting
in afghanistan is not a solution , but a recipe for being there indefinitely. it is up to the afghans to make the decisions of the future of their country. others are more direct. their argument is we should stay with the afghan and afghanistan indefinitely. in doing so, they point to the fact we have not taken losses in this last year, so they claim the cost of maintaining the status quo is minimal. but that ignores the reality. and the facts that are already presented on the ground in afghanistan when i took office. the taliban was at -- is at its strongest militarily since 2001. the number of u.s. forces in afghanistan had been reduced to a bare minimum. united states in the last administration made an agreement with the taliban to remove all our forces by may 1 of this year. that is what i inherited. that agreement was the reason
the taliban had ceased major attacks against u.s. forces. in april, it has been announced united states is going back on that agreement paid in the last administration, the united states and allied forces would remain in afghanistan for the foreseeable future. the taliban would have again begun to target our forces. but status quo was not an option. staying would have meant u.s. troops taking casualties. american men and women back in the middle of a civil war. we would run the risk of having to send more troops back into afghanistan to defend our remaining troops. once the agreement had been made, staying with a bare minimum force was no longer possible. let me ask those who wanted us to stay, how many more? how many thousands more american daughters and sons were you willing to risk? how long would you have them
stay? already, we have members of our military whose parents fought in afghanistan 20 years ago. would you send their children and their grandchildren as well? would you send your own son or daughter? after 20 years, a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of afghan national security and defense forces, 2448 americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health, i will not send another generation of americans to war in afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome. the united states cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to the world as it was 20 years ago. we need to meet the threats where they are today.
today, the terrorist threat has metastasized beyond afghanistan. so we are repositioning our resources and adapting our counterterrorism posture to meet the threats where they are now. significantly higher in south asia, the middle east, and africa. but make no mistake, our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from afghanistan. we are developing a 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 act quickly and decisively if needed. we also need to focus on assuring up america's core strength to meet the strategic competition with china and other
nations that is going to determine our future. we have to defeat covid-19 at home and around the world. make sure we are better prepared for the next pandemic or biological threat. we need to establish international norms for cyberspace and the use of emerging technologies. we need to take concerted action to fight existential threats of climate change. we will be more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long run if we fight the battles of the next 20 years, not the last 20 years. finally, i want to recognize the incredible sacrifice and dedication that the u.s. military and civilian personnel serving alongside our allies and partners have made over the last two decades in afghanistan. i want to honor the significance of what they have accomplished and the great personal risk they encountered at incredible cost
to their families. pursuing the terrorist threat on some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet, ensuring there has not been another attack on the homeland from afghanistan for the last 20 years, taking out bin laden. i want to thank you all for your service and dedication to the mission so many of you have given and to the sacrifices you and your families have made over the long course of this war. we will never forget those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country in afghanistan, nor those whose lives have been immeasurably altered by wounds sustained in the service of their country. we are ending america's longest war. but we will always honor the bravery of the american patriots who served in it.
may god bless you all and may god protect our troops. thank you. >> is the taliban takeover of afghanistan now inevitable? pres. biden: no, it is not. because you have the afghan troops who have 300,000 well-equipped, as well-equipped as any army in the world and in air force. against something like 75,000 taliban. it is not inevitable. >> do you trust the taliban? pres. biden: is that a serious question? >> absolutely a serious question. do you trust the taliban? pres. biden: no, i do not trust the taliban. >> mr. president will you , amplify your answer please?
pres. biden: it is a silly question. do i trust the taliban? no. but i trust the capacity of the afghan military who is better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war. >> thank you, mr. president. given the amount of money that has been spent and the number of lives that have been lost, in your view, were the last 20 years worth it? pres. biden: you know my record. i can tell by the way you asked the question. i opposed permanently having american forces in afghanistan. i argued from the beginning, as you may recall, it came to light after the administration was over, our administration. no nation has ever unified afghanistan. no nation. empires have gone there and not
done it. the focus we had, and i strongly support it and i physically went to afghanistan. i was up in that pass where osama bin laden was allegedly escaped out of harm's way. we went for two reasons. one, to bring osama bin laden to the gates of hell, as i said at the time. the second reason was to eliminate al qaeda's capacity to deal with more attacks on the united states from that territory. we accomplished both of those objectives, period. that is what i believed from the beginning. why we should have gone to afghanistan.
that job had been over for some time. that is why i believe this is the right decision, and quite frankly, overdue. >> mister president, thank you very much. your own intelligence community has assessed the afghan government will likely collapse. pres. biden: that is not true. >> can you please clarify what they have told you about whether that will happen or not? pres. biden: that is not true. they did not reach that conclusion. >> so what is the level of confidence they have that it will not collapse? pres. biden: the afghan government has to come together. they clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place. the question is, will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it? it is not a question of whether they have the capacity.
they have the capacity. they have the forces. they have the equipment. the question is, will they do it? i want to make clear, we are not going to walk away and not sustain their ability to maintain that force. we are also going to work to make sure we help them in terms of everything from food necessities and other things in the region. but there is not a conclusion that, in fact they cannot defeat , the taliban. i believe the only way this is going to be -- this is now joe biden, not the intelligence community. the only way there is going to be peace and security in afghanistan is they work out with the taliban and they make a judgment as to how they can make peace. the likelihood there is going to be one unified government in afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.
>> we have talked to general scott miller. he told abc news the conditions are so concerning it could result in a civil war. if kabul falls to the taliban, what will the united states do about it? pres. biden: you said two things. one, it could result in a civil war. that is different from the taliban succeeding, number one. number two, the question of what will be done is going to be implicated -- is going to implicate the entire region as well. there are a number of countries that have a grave concern about what is going to happen in afghanistan relative to their security. the question is, how much of a threat to the united states of america and to our allies is whatever results in terms of a government or an agreement? that is when that judgment will be made. >> some vietnamese veterans see
echoes of their experience in this withdrawal of afghanistan. do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in vietnam? pres. biden: none whatsoever. zero. what you had is entire brigades breaking through the gates of our embassy. the taliban is not the north vietnamese army. they are not remotely comparable in terms of capability. there will be no circumstance in which you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy of the united states from afghanistan. it is not at all comparable. >> how serious was the corruption among the afghanistan government to this mission failing? pres. biden: first of all, the mission has not failed yet.
there is in afghanistan, and all parties, there has been corruption. the question is, can there be an agreement on unity and purpose? what is the objective? for example, it started off, there were going to be negotiations between the taliban and the afghan national security forces and the afghan government. that did not come to fruition. the question now is, where did they go from here? the jury is still out. but the likelihood, there is going to be the taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely. >> will the united states be responsible for the loss of afghan civilian life? pres. biden: no. no, no, no. it is up to the people of afghanistan to decide on what government they want. not us to impose the government on them. no country has ever been able to
do that. keep in mind, as a student of history, as i'm sure you are, never has afghanistan been a united country. not in all of its history. not in all of its history. >> is this a "mission accomplished" moment? pres. biden: no, there is no mission accomplished. the mission was accomplished in that we got osama bin laden and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world. >> are you satisfied with the timeline of relocating afghan nationals? is it happening quickly enough to your satisfaction, if it may not happen until next month? pres. biden: much of it has already happened. there've already been about a thousand people who have come to the united states already on commercial aircraft. there are already 2500 people from january to now who have gotten those visas and only half decided they wanted to leave.
the point is that the whole process has to be sped up. in terms of being able to get these b cells. >> why can't the u.s. evacuate afghan translators to the united states to await their visa processing at some immigrants -- pres. biden: that is why we are asking the congress to consider changing the law. in the meantime, we can guarantee their safety if they wish to leave by taking the third country and while the wait is taking place, and hopefully while they are waiting, to be able to bring them back to the united states if that is what they choose to do. >> [indiscernible]
pres. biden: they are very concerned with good reason. when i was in afghanistan, i've been there a number of times. i remember being in a school outside, and by the way the , schools in afghanistan are not fundamentally unlike schools in the west coast where they have an area in the middle that looks like a playground and single-story buildings connected around it. i remember saying -- speaking to a group of young women. i guess they were roughly -- totaled me to this -- they looked like they would be 14, 15 years old. they are in school. there is a tiered classroom with single light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, as i know you know. i said the united states came here to make sure we got osama bin laden and that terrorists
did not go after our country. we are going to have to leave it. the young woman said, you can't leave. it was heartbreaking. you can't leave, she said. i want to be a doctor. i want to be a doctor. i want to be a doctor. if you leave, i will never be able to be a doctor. that is why we spent so much time and money training the afghan security forces to do the work of defending that. anyway, yes, i am aware. one last question. >> mr. president, thank you. i want to ask, with the benefit of hindsight, you have spoken to the fact that the taliban are at their militarily strongest you point have seen in 20 years. how do you feel personally about that with the benefit of hindsight and all the dollars and investments we are sending?
pres. biden: relative to the training and capacity of the ansf and the federal police, they are not even close in terms of capacity. i was making the point -- the point was, here we were. the argument is we can stay because no one was dying. no americans are being shot. so why leave? once the agreement was made by the last administration, we were going to leave by may 1, it was clear the taliban that had always been a problem was an even more sophisticated problem than they were before. not more sophisticated than government. more than they were. the point being that it would have increased the prospect and they would have been able to take more lives of americans if they decided we were not going to go after them. that was the point i was making. thank you all very much. >> mr. president, what do you make of the taliban going to russia today?
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showing congressional hearings that took place after the attack. coming up tonight, a hearing with homeland security officials and major general william walker, who served as commander of the d.c. national guard at the time of the attack. then an update from president biden on troops withdrawing from afghanistan. later, remarks by new york governor andrew cuomo during the national governors association meeting. announcer: nearly two months after the january 6 attack on the u.s. capitol, major general william walker, who served as commander of the d.c. national guard at the time of the attack, gave lawmakers a time of events that happened that day. also testifying, representatives from the pentagon, the fbi, and the homeland security department. they told lawmakers about their intelligence gathering and sharing process. this is about four hours.