WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Amid the Taliban’s swift return to power and despite backlash from Republicans, President Joe Biden has defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The president addressed the nation Monday for the first time since the Taliban swept into Kabul with little resistance from a crumbling U.S-based Afghan government and its security forces.
Biden said staying in Afghanistan is not worth more Americans’ lives.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” he said.
“There was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” Biden continued. “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”
Republicans, meanwhile, continue to call the withdrawal — marked by chaos around the country and jarring images at the Kabul airport of people running alongside departing planes, trying to flee — a disaster.
“This was a major failure, another crisis that was created,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said. “Just a very disgraceful way for America to exit this country.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the president’s speech a pathetic attempt to shift the blame.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the situation in Afghanistan “just devastating” and said the Biden administration needs to explain itself.
“There’s going to be review about how we came to be” in this position, she said.
The administration admitted the fall was quicker than expected.
“It happened very fast,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “One of the things couldn’t anticipate and didn’t anticipate was the degree to which Afghan forces capitulated.”
Flights out of the Kabul airport were paused Monday but have since resumed, with Kirby saying the goal is to get up to 5,000 people out on between 20 and 30 flights each day.
The Pentagon is surging thousands of U.S. troops to the airport to facilitate the evacuations. Military officials said the troops’ primary mission is keeping evacuees safe, but warned they will engage the Taliban if it tries to interfere.