Biden rules out changes in troop withdrawal plan from Afghanistan

Washington:  President Joe Biden has ruled out any change in the US plan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan despite the Taliban increasingly gaining control over large swaths of the war-torn country, saying Afghan leaders need to come together and fight for themselves and their nation.

President Biden in April ordered the withdrawal of all the US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 to end America’s longest war.

The Pentagon’s massive task of removing service members and equipment out of Afghanistan is nearly complete and the US military mission is slated to end by August 31.

No, Biden told reporters on Tuesday at the White House when asked if his current plan to withdraw troops could change at all.

Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped over 300,000 Afghan forces. Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands — lost to death and injury — thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation, he asserted.

The United States — I’ll insist we continue to keep the commitments we made of providing close air support, making sure that their air force functions and is operable, resupplying their forces with food and equipment, and paying all their salaries. But they’ve got to want to fight. They have outnumbered the Taliban, Biden said.

As the US troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the Taliban has made stunning battlefield advances despite being vastly outnumbered by the Afghan military.

Over the weekend, the Taliban seized five provincial Afghan capitals.

Biden said the Afghans are beginning to realise they’ve got to come together politically at the top.

But we are going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision, he said.

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the US went to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked them on September 11, to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack the US.

We achieved those objectives some years ago, she said.

We judge the threat now against our homeland, which is his responsibility as commander-in-chief to focus on, as being one where the threat emanates from outside of Afghanistan, she added.

The President asked for a clear assessment, for a review from his team on what the possible implications could be, she said.

“He asked them not to sugarcoat that. He asked them to lay out specifically and clearly what the consequences could be,” she added.

I’ll also note that we have provided a great deal and a range of assistance to the Afghan National Security Defence Forces and also proposed a significant amount of funding in the FY 2022 budget request for USD 3.3 billion for the Afghan Security Forces, she said.

So, he made a decision as commander-in-chief. Those are difficult decisions to make. He did it because after 20 years at war, it’s time to bring our troops — our men and women — home. And we will continue to be partners and supporters of their efforts on the ground, Psaki said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that while the Biden administration plans to continue to provide air support, there was not much else the US military could do.

We will certainly support from the air, where and when feasible, but that’s no substitute for leadership on the ground, it’s no substitute for political leadership in Kabul, it’s no substitute for using the capabilities and capacity that we know they have, Kirby said.