Skip to main content

tv   President Biden Delivers Remarks on Afghanistan  CSPAN  August 16, 2021 5:23pm-5:45pm EDT

5:23 pm
3600 since the sivs? >> correct. ♪
5:24 pm
>> president biden spoke about events unfolding in afghanistan as the u.s. troop withdrawal comes to a close. it was his first public address since the taliban gain control of kabul. from the white house, this is 20 minutes.
5:25 pm
pres. biden: good afternoon. i want to speak about the steps we are taking to address rapidly evolving events. my team and i have been monitoring the situation and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including -- contingency, including the rapid collapse we are seeing now. i will speak more about the specific steps we are taking, that i want to remind everyone how we got here and what america's interests are in afghanistan. we went to afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals. yet those who attacked us on september 11, 2001, and make
5:26 pm
sure al qaeda could not use afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. we did that. we severely degraded al qaeda in afghanistan. we never gave up the hunt for osama bin laden and we got him. that was a decade ago. our mission in afghanistan was never supposed to have been nationbuilding. it was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. our only reason to be in afghanistan was to prevent a terrorist attack on american homeland. i have argued our missions should be focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nationbuilding. i oppose the surge proposed in 2000 nine when i was vice president. that is why, as president, i am adamant we focus on the threats
5:27 pm
we face today in 2021, not yesterday's threats. today, the threat has metastasized beyond afghanistan. al-shabaab in somalia, al qaeda, isis attempting to create a caliphate in syria and iraq. these threats warrant our attention and resources. we conduct counterterrorism mission and terrorist groups, but we do not have permanent military presence. if necessary, we will do the same in afghanistan. we have developed counterterrorism over the horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threat to the united states and the region. that quickly -- and act quickly
5:28 pm
and decisively if needed. when i came into office, i inherited a deal that trump negotiated with the taliban. under his agreement, forces would be out of afghanistan by may 1, 20 21, 3 months after i took office. u.s. forces had already drawn down during the trump administration from roughly 15,500 american forces to 2500 troops. the taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001. the choice i had to make as your president was 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. no agreement protecting our
5:29 pm
forces after may 1. there was no status quo of stability without american casualties after may 1. there was only the cold reality of following through on the agreement to withdraw forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more american troops back to combat into afghanistan. lurching into the third decade of conflict. i stand 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 died about the -- we were clear-i'd about the -- clear-eyed about the risk. i promised i would be straight with you. this did unfold more quickly
5:30 pm
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 developments of the past week reinforces that ending u.s. military involvement in afghanistan now was the right decision. american troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that afghan forces are not willing to fight in themselves. we spent over $1 trillion. we trained and equipped an afghan military force some 300 million strong, incredibly well-equipped, a force larger in
5:31 pm
size than the military of many of our nato allies. we give them every tool that they could need. we paid their salaries, we provided for the maintenance of their air force, something the taliban does not have. the taliban does not have an air force. we provided close air support. we give them every chance to -- we gave them every chance to determine their own future. what we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future. there are some very brave and capable afghan special forces units and soldiers. but if afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the taliban now, there is no chance that one year, one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of u.s. military boots on the ground would have made any difference. here is what i believe to my core. it is wrong to order american troops to step up when
5:32 pm
afghanistan's own 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 when the chips were down. they would never have done so while u.s. troops remained in afghanistan, bearing the brunt of the fighting for them. and 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 into stabilizing afghanistan indefinitely. when i hosted president ghani and chairman abdulla in the white house in june and again when i spoke by phone to -- ghani in july, we had very frank
5:33 pm
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. i also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the taliban. this advice was flatly refused. mr. ghani insisted the afghan forces would fight. but obviously he was wrong. so i am left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay, how many more generations of america's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight afghanistan's civil war? when afghan troops will not? how many more lives, american lives, is it worth? how many endless rows of
5:34 pm
headstones at arlington national cemetery? i am clear on my answer. i will not repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely when the conflict is not in the national interest of the united states. of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless deployment of u.s. military forces. those are the mistakes we cannot continue 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, they are gut wrenching, particularly for our veterans, diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who spent time working on the ground to support the afghan
5:35 pm
people. for those who have lost loved ones in afghanistan and for americans who have fought and served in the country, served our country in afghanistan. this is deeply, deeply personal. it is for me as well. i have worked on these issues as long as anyone. i have been throughout afghanistan during this war while the war was going on, from ckabul to kandahar. i have traveled there on four different occasions. i have 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. so now we are focused on what is possible. we will continue to support the afghan people. we will lead with our diplomacy
5:36 pm
, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid. we will continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. we will continue to speak out for the basic rights of the afghan people, of women and girls, just as we speak out all over the world. i have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery. but the way to do it is not through endless military deployments. it is with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us. let me lay out the current mission in afghanistan. i was asked to authorize, and i did, 6000 u.s. troops to deploy to afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of u.s. and allied civilian personnel from afghanistan and to evacuate our afghan allies and vulnerable afghans to safety
5:37 pm
outside of afghanistan. our troops are working to secure the airfield and ensure continued operation of both the 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 have been 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.
5:38 pm
in the coming days, the u.s. military will provide assistance to move more siv eligible afghans and their families out of afghanistan. we are also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable afghans who worked for our embassy, u.s. nongovernmental organizations, 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 afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country. part of it was because the afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence. american troops are performing
5:39 pm
this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks. as we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the taliban 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 -- america's longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.
5:40 pm
the events we are seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure afghanistan. it is known in history as the graveyard of empires. what is happening now could just as easily have happened five years ago or 15 years in the future. we have to be honest, our mission in afghanistan has taken many missteps, made many missteps over the past two decades. i am now the fourth president to preside over the war in afghanistan. two democrats and two republicans. i will not pass this responsibility on to 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
5:41 pm
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 war fighting in afghanistan, and maintain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission there and in other parts of the world. our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al qaeda in afghanistan and kill osama bin laden was a success. our decades long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake afghanistan was not, and i wrote and believed it 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,
5:42 pm
leaving families broken by grief and loss. this is not in our national security interest. it is not what the american people want. it is not what our troops who 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, yes, 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 leaders 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.
5:43 pm
but i would rather take all that criticism than than pass this decision on to another president of the united states, yet another one, a fifth one. because it is the right decision for our people, the right one for our brave servicemembers who have risk their lives serving this nation, and it is the right one for america. thank you and may god protect our troops, diplomats, and all brave americans serving in harm's way. reporter: what do you make of the afghans swarming the aircraft? >> we have to leave now, thank you.
5:44 pm
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> c-span's washington journal, every day we take your calls live on the air on the news of the day and we discussed policy issues that impact you. tuesday morning, we will discuss the fall of afghanistan with wesley morgan, military journalist and author of "the hardest place: the american military adrift in afghanistan." watch washington journal, live at 7:00 eastern tuesday morning. join the discussion with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages, and tweets. >> even more on the situation in afghanistan, one of the authors of this op-ed, h.r. mcmaster,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on