As security conditions deteriorate in Afghanistan, President Biden is set to speak about his decision to pull U.S. troops out of America’s longest-running war and discuss what kind of support he will offer the country going forward.
Biden’s remarks come a week after U.S. forces suddenly withdrew from Bagram Airfield — a move that Afghan allies framed as a surprise, and carried heavy symbolic overtones, as looters swarmed what, for years, was the center of American military operations in the country.
Additionally, Taliban forces continue to make sweeping gains in the vacuum created by the withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO forces.
Biden pushed for a smaller U.S. footprint in Afghanistan during his time as Barack Obama’s vice president and campaigned on ending the war. Earlier this year, Biden announced an end to the U.S. troop presence there before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Now, however, images of looting at an abandoned U.S. air base that once housed thousands of military personnel, along with daily reports of the Taliban gaining more power and threatening the Afghan government, have put Biden on the defensive.
“We’re on track exactly as to where we expected to be,” Biden told reporters last week when pressed on whether the U.S. withdrawal would be slowed in response to the Taliban’s actions.
According to the White House, Biden’s Thursday remarks will focus on “ongoing security and humanitarian assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.” But the ongoing theme of remarks from both Biden, and officials who have been involved in the two-decade military battle, is that American resources are better off being focused elsewhere.
“I am concerned about the number of terrorist organizations that still reside there, and I am also concerned that the Taliban will eventually take over the country, and it could be a real bloodbath,” Adm. Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told NPR’s Morning Edition. However, Mullen added, “I personally think it’s time to go. It’s been 20 years,” he said, with “no end in sight.”
Biden has also said it’s time for the Afghan government to stand on its own. “Look, we were in that war for 20 years. Twenty years,” Biden said last week when pressed on whether he was worried whether the Afghan government might fall.