One president is on the run and the other is taking a stand on the situation in Afghanistan. At least for the moment that’s the respective status of Ashraf Ghani and President Joe Biden.
With Ghani off to parts unknown after fleeing his country on Sunday 15th August, on Monday Biden owned up to his decision and took some responsibility for the current crisis.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” the president said in remarks from the East Room of the White House. “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated.”
His comments came against the backdrop of Taliban taking control of Kabul, the capital, and taking up residence in the presidential palace. To see some of them behind Ghani’s desk was like seeing the marauders in the Capitol Building on Jan. 6.
A long-ago image arrived, too, one reminiscent of Vietnam when the U.S. troops began to withdraw and the chaos of U.S. personnel and others trampling each other to get on planes out of the country.
To tamp down the raucous and secure the U.S. embassy and the airport, the American military was once again summoned with 6,000 troops being deployed. Republicans and Democrats have critically assailed Biden, blaming him for the troop withdrawal from the “Forever War,” that has gone on for two decades at the cost of thousands of American lives and dollars.
But Biden pointed the blame at the Afghan leaders and their inability to defend the provinces. “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 responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am the president of the United States of America and the buck stops with me.”
To a great degree, he added, the previous administration that signed a deal with Trump to have U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by May had painted Biden into a corner. “The choice I had to make as your president was 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 be no ceasefire after May 1.”
He concluded by stating: “I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past, the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States.”