- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
President Joe Biden insisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was always strictly about counterterrorism, not "nation-building" as he defended the withdrawal of troops after 20 years of fighting followed by a rapid Taliban advance to retake control of the country.
But the message in the president's address to the nation on Monday contradicts what he said 18 years ago when then-Sen. Biden said a lack of nation-building would only lead to bedlam.
"Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building," Biden claimed in his speech on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. "It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland."
In 2003, Biden spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the need of a continued presence in Afghanistan, stating that though "nation-building" was a "dirty phrase" to many in the administration at the time, it was necessary to avoid "chaos." Biden encouraged stronger actions on U.S. interests in the Middle East, saying, "With war clouds gathering over Iraq and an unacknowledged crisis looming in North Korea, public attention in Washington has shifted away from our unfinished business in Afghanistan."
He continued, "In some parts of the administration, nation-building is still a dirty phrase, but the alternative to nation-building is chaos, a chaos that churns out blood-thirsty warlords, drug traffickers, and terrorists."
In his address on Monday, Biden stood firm in his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, stating that the end of U.S. presence in the nation was destined to have complications and repercussions.
"I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president. I will not mislead the American people that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference," Biden said. "I am the president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me."
Critics of the president accused him of side-stepping the main controversy of the withdrawal: the scattered and disorganized rush to defend and rescue U.S. citizens and allies in territory now controlled by the Taliban, including the capital of Kabul. The president then exited the room without taking questions from the media before his planned return to Camp David.
"It's not that we left Afghanistan. It's the grossly incompetent way we left!" former President Donald Trump said in a statement via his Save America PAC.
"The President's failure to acknowledge his disastrous withdrawl provides no comfort to Americans or our Afghan partners whose lives hang in the balance," said Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. "Contrary to his claims, our choice was not between a hasty and ill-prepared retreat or staying forever. The decision to place a higher priority on a political promise than on the lives of innocent men, women, and children is a stain on America's reputation and undermines our credibility around the world."
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: Timothy Nerozzi
Original Location: Biden on Afghanistan in 2003: 'Alternative to nation-building is chaos'