April 24, 2024

Biden, Trump and Afghanistan: Statements that haven’t aged well


**Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Biden delivers remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan.© Leah Millis/Reuters President Biden delivers remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan.

Members of the US military are outraged that the US is not doing more to help…

“We were clear-eyed about the risk. We planned for every contingency. … The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”

— President Biden, in an address to the nation on Aug. 16.

In March 2020, President Donald Trump approved an agreement with the Taliban (not the Afghan government) for U.S. forces to leave the country by May 2021. Despite abandoning many of Trump’s policies, President Biden decided to stick with this one, just stretching out the departure by a few months.

Two months before Biden announced that he had decided to stick with Trump’s deal, the bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group, in its final congressionally mandated report, warned that a quick departure of U.S. troops would probably not succeed.

“The probability of maintaining some sort of stability in Afghanistan after a prompt withdrawal of troops and a substantial reduction in aid is minimal,” the report said. “Almost every interlocutor the Study Group consulted used the word ‘catastrophic’ or a synonym thereof to describe the effects of this option.”

Yet the Biden administration insisted that it would work out okay. Trump also celebrated Biden’s decision to stick with his original plan. Now, after the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the victory of the Taliban, here are some statements that have not aged well.

“The job of the American military is to secure and defend our country. Two days ago, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban so that after 19 years of conflict and very close to 20, we can finally begin to bring our amazing troops back home.” — Trump, in a campaign rally, March 2, 2020

“We’re dealing very well with the Taliban. They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp. But, you know, it’s been 19 years, and even they are tired of fighting.”

— Trump, in a news conference, Sept. 18

“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. … Along with our partners, we have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today and hundreds of thousands over the past two decades. And they’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”

— Biden, in a speech, April 14, 2021

“Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”

— Trump, in a written statement, April 18

“I personally believe that the predictions that the Afghan forces will collapse right away, they are not right. We will help; we are helping them now. We will help them. This is our commitment. … I personally believe that the statements that the forces will disintegrate, and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken. The real choices that the Afghans will face is between a long war and negotiated settlement.”

— Special Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (chief negotiator with the Taliban), in a congressional hearing, May 18

“I started the process. All the troops are coming back home. They couldn’t stop the process. Twenty-one years is enough, don’t we think? Twenty-one years. They [the Biden administration] couldn’t stop the process. They wanted to, but it was very tough to stop the process.”

— Trump, at a political rally, June 26

“Whatever happens in Afghanistan if there is a significant deterioration in security, that could well happen. We’ve discussed this before. I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday. So, I wouldn’t necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, August, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation.”

— Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a congressional testimony, June 7

“If certain other things happen, if there was a collapse of the government or disillusion of the Afghan security force, that risk would obviously increase. But, right now, I’d say medium and in about two years or so.…You can’t predict the future. But, I don’t see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan… The Taliban just aren’t the North Vietnamese army. It’s not that kind of situation.”

— Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in congressional testimony, June 17

“We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying, we are working to make sure other partners stay. We are working to build that up. Whatever happens in Afghanistan, if there is a significant deterioration in security — that could well happen, we’ve discussed this before — I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”

— Blinken, in an interview, July 7

“The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable. … The Taliban is not … the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

— Biden, speaking to reporters, July 8

“We have said all along that there was a real chance for the Taliban to make significant gains throughout Afghanistan. But on the other hand, I have to tell you the inability of Afghan security forces to defend their country has played a very powerful role in what we have seen over the last few weeks.”

The Washington Post

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