tv President Biden Delivers Remarks on Afghanistan CSPAN August 16, 2021 4:01pm-4:21pm EDT
situation in afghanistan. the steps we are taking to address the rapidly evolving events. my national security team and i have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground and moving to as acute the plans we put in place to respond to every contingency. included rapid collapse we are seeing now. i will speak more about the explicit steps we are taking. i want to remind everyone how we got here and what america's interests are. we went to afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals, get those who attacked us on september 11, 2001 and make sure al qaeda could not use afghanistan as a base to attack us again. we did that. we severely degraded al qaeda in afghanistan. we never give up the hunt for
osama bin laden and we got him. that was a decade ago. our mission in afghanistan was never supposed to be creating a unified democracy. we were only preventing a terrorist attack on american homeland. i have argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nationbuilding. that is why i opposed the surge, the one proposed in 2009 when i was vice president. i am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021, not yesterday's threats. today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond afghanistan. somalia, the arabian peninsula,
isis attempting to take root in syria and iraq. these threats warrant our attention and are -- our resources. we conduct counterterrorist missions in mobile countries were we don't have permanent military presence. if necessary, we will do the same in afghanistan. we have developed counterterrorism over the rise in capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threats to the united states in the region. and act quickly and decisively if needed. when i came into office, i inherited the deal that president trump negotiated with the taliban. with his agreement, u.s. forces would have been out of the area
by may of 2021. they are drawing down from 15,500 american forces to 2000 troops. the taliban was at his strongest since 2001. the choice i had to make as your president who is 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 cease-fire after may 1. there was no agreement protection for our forces after may 1. there was no guarantee of the status quo after may 1. there was only the cool reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our
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. after 20 years, i have learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw u.s. forces. that is why we are still there. we were clear eyed about the risks. we plan for every contingency but i always promised the american people to be straight with you. the truth is this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated. what has happened? afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. the afghan military collapsed,
sometimes without trying to fight. if anything, the development of the past week reinforces that any u.s. military involvement in afghanistan now was the right decision. in 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 , we trained and equipped afghan -- equipped afghan million forces some 3 million strong. incredibly well-equipped. a force larger in size than the military for many of our nato allies. we give them every tool that they needed. we paid their salaries, we provided for them is of their air force. something the taliban does not have. they do not have an air force. we provided air support.
we give them every chance to determine their own future. we could not provide them the will to fight for that future. there are some very brave and capable afghan special forces units and soldiers. if the afghans are unable to mount any assistance to the taliban now, there is no chance that five more years or 20 more years will have made any difference. here is what i believed to my core. it is wrong to order american troops to step up when afghanistan's on armed forces would not. 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 went
the chips were down. they would never have done so while u.s. troops remained in afghanistan, bearing the brunt of the fighting. 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 and to destabilize afghanistan indefinitely. when i hosted president ghani at the white house in june and again when i spoke by phone to him in july, we had very frank conversations, we talked about how afghanistan should prepare to fight 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. they failed to do any of that.
they needed to seek a political settlement with the taliban. this advice was flatly refused. mr. goni insisted the afghan forces would fight. obviously he was wrong. i am left again to ask of those who argue we should stay, how many more generations of america's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight afghanistan's civil war? how many more american lives is it worth? how many endless rows of headstones at arlington national cemetery? i am clear on my answer. i will not repeat the mistakes we made of the past. the mistake of staying in fighting indefinitely when the
conflict is not in the natural -- national interest of the united states. attempting to remake a country with the endless deployment of u.s. military and forces. those are the mistakes we cannot afford to repeat because we have significant vital interest in the world that we cannot afford to ignore. i also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. the scenes we are seeing in afghanistan are gutwrenching. particularly for our veterans, diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who spent time working on the ground to support the afghan people. for those who have lost loved ones in afghanistan and for americans who have fought and served our country in afghanistan. this is deeply personal.
it is for me as well. i have worked on these issues as long as anyone. i have been throughout afghanistan throughout this war. i have traveled there on four different occasions. i met with the people, i have spoken to the leaders, i spent time with our troops. i came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in afghanistan. now we are focused on what is possible. we will continue to support the afghan people, we will lead with our diplomacy and humanitarian aid. we will continue to push for regional diplomacy. we will continue to speak out for the basic rights of the afghan people, men, girls, just as we speak out all over the
world. i have been clear that human rights must be the center of foreign, not the periphery. the way to do it is not through endless military deployments. it is with our diplomacy, or economic tools and rallying the world to join us. let me lay out the current mission in afghanistan. i was asked to authorize 6000 u.s. troops for the purpose of assisting allied civilian personnel from afghanistan and to evacuate our afghan allies and vulnerable afghans to safety outside of afghanistan. our troops are working to secure the airfield and ensure the continued operation of both civilian and military flights.
we are taking over air traffic control. we have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats. our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well. over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of american citizens who are living and working in afghanistan. we will also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel. the civilian personnel of our allies who are still serving in afghanistan. operation allies refugee which i announced back in july has already moved 2000 afghans who are eligible for special immigration visas and their families to the united states. in the coming days, the u.s. military will provide assistance to move more eligible afghans and their families out of afghanistan. we are also expanding refugee
access to cover other vulnerable afghans who work for amnesty. and afghans who are otherwise at great risk in u.s. news agencies. i know there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating afghan civilians sooner. part of the answer is some of the afghani did not want to leave early. still hopeful for their country. part of it was because the afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exit this to avoid triggering a crisis of conflict. american troops are performing this mission as professionally and effectively as they always do but it is not without risk. as we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the taliban that if they attack our
personnel or disrupt our operation, the u.s. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful. we will defend our people with devastating force if necessary. our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope and focused in its objectives. get our people and allies to safety as quickly as possible and once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. we will end america's august war after 20 long years of bloodshed. the events we are seeing now are sadly proved that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure afghanistan.
what is happening now could just as easily happen five years ago or 15 years in the future. you have to be honest, our mission in afghanistan has taken many missteps and mid -- made many missteps. i am the fourth president to preside over the war in afghanistan. two democrats and two republicans. i will not pass this response ability onto a fifth president. i will not mislead the american people by claiming that just a little more time in afghanistan will make all the difference. nor will i shrink from my share of the responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. i am president of the united states of america and the buck stops with me. i and deeply saddened by the facts we now face but i do not
regret my decision to end america's fight in afghanistan and maintain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission there and in other parts of the world. a mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al qaeda in afghanistan and kill osama bin laden was a success. our decade-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake afghanistan was not and i wrote and believed he never could be. i cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country's civil war. taking casualties, suffering life shattering injuries, leading families broken by grief and loss. this is not in our national security interest. it is not with the american people want. it is not what our troops have
sacrificed so much over the past two decades deserve. i made a commitment to the american people when i ran for president. that i would bring america's military involvement in afghanistan to an end. while it has been hard and messy and far from perfect, i have honored that commitment. more importantly, i made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that i was not going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago. our leader did that in vietnam when i got here as a young man. i will not do it in afghanistan. i know my decision will be criticized. but i would rather take all that criticism and pass this decision on -- criticism than pass this
decision on two another resident. this is the right one for -- the right decision for our brave servicemembers and it is the right one for america. thank you and god protect our troops, diplomats and all brave americans serving in harm's way. >> you saw president biden lie from the white house, the state department and pentagon are both scheduled to hold briefings on the situation in afghanistan this afternoon. on c-span, we will take you to whatever briefing gets underway first.