President Biden delivers remarks on the administrations Build Back Better agenda on Aug. 12. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
President Biden on Saturday doubled down on his long-standing rationale for withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan as the threat of Kabul falling to the Taliban looms large.
Driving the news: Biden blamed his predecessor, former President Trump, for empowering the Taliban and leaving them “in the strongest position militarily since 2001.” Trump responded with a statement blaming Biden for the situation unfolding in Afghanistan.
- Biden said in a statement that he had to make a choice and that he would not pass on the war to a “fifth” U.S. president.
- “When I became President, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” Biden said.
- “One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” Biden added. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”
What he’s saying: Trump said in an emailed statement hours after Biden’s comments that his successor had “ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him.” He didn’t elaborate further on details of this plan.
“What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul,” Trump said. “This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.”
Flashback: Trump said in April that Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was “a wonderful and positive thing to do,” but criticized the timeline and said the U.S. “should get out earlier.”
By the numbers: Biden announced Saturday that some 5,000 additional U.S. troops would be deployed to assist with drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allies as they evacuate the region.
- Of those, 3,000 were already announced, 1,000 were already in Kabul and 1,000 additional troops will arrive from the 82nd Airborne Division directly in Kabul, per ABC.
The big picture: Biden’s remarks come as Taliban offensives show no signs of slowing and as the threat of insurgents toppling the Afghan government and isolating Kabul mounts.
- Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, the second-largest province in the country, fell to the Taliban on Saturday.
- Jalalabad and Kabul are now the only major cities still under government control and officials fear Jalalabad could fall within hours.
Of note: Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Saturday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and also Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation chair Abdullah Abdullah.
- Ghani gave a speech earlier on Saturday in which he gave no indication he would be resigning.
- Blinken’s spokesperson Ned Price said in an emailed statement that the secretary of state underscored to Abdullah the U.S. “commitment to a strong relationship with the Government of Afghanistan and our continuing support for the people of Afghanistan.”
Go deeper: Behind the scenes of the Biden administration as the U.S. ditches Kabul
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comment from Trump and Price.