Biden Backs Afghan Withdrawal in the Face of Taliban Takeover and Heavy Criticism
By: Aashruti Vohra
President Joe Biden broke days of silence early on Tuesday (Indian time) regarding the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan, doubling down on his decision as he blamed the country’s former US-backed leadership for failing to resist the Taliban.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” he said in a televised address from the White House. “The buck stops with me.”
The United States’ decision to withdraw came under heavy scrutiny in the final hours of the Taliban takeover, when panic-stricken people rushed to the Kabul airport to flee the country. This move has also raised fears that militant groups like al Qaeda could reconstitute under Taliban rule.
Speaking for the first time after chaos engulfed Kabul streets, the US President said that the developments of the past week reinforced that ending military involvement in Afghanistan was the right decision. He blamed politicians and the Afghan army for not taking on Taliban insurgents, which were less in numbers and not highly trained.
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. 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 American homeland,” the President said.
While Biden did acknowledge that the Taliban’s speed in retaking the country was unexpected even by the American intelligence community, who had predicted that the Afghan army would repel the militants. The President was also quick to point fingers at his predecessor Donald Trump’s administration for reaching a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban back in February 2020 and putting the current administration “in a spot”.
“The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden concluded. In an uncharacteristic move, he did not field any questions from the press
Scenes of absolute bedlam in Kabul had been dominating airwaves across the globe as Afghans fled to the airport in the hopes of catching a plane out of the country. Footage showed desperate citizens holding on to the wheels of aeroplanes as they took off and falling to their deaths as the planes drew their landing wheels back in, once in the air.
Around 60% of the refugees fleeing Afghanistan are women and children. From what history has taught us about the Taliban, educated, independent women have constantly been targeted over the years. During its 1996-2001 regime, the Taliban had banned women from education, employment and even put restrictions on their freedom of movement, as per their radical interpretation of Islamic law.
In Kabul where the cameras of the international press are focussed, the Taliban has taken steps to appear more liberal than the last time. However, reports are coming in from other parts of the country that Taliban fighters are stopping women from going to work or school and demanding that families give up their daughters to be married to their numbers.
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