President Joe Biden defended his withdrawal from Afghanistan, arguing that the deaths of 13 service members in the final days of the U.S. exit were inevitable under the circumstances.
“Everybody says, ‘You could’ve gotten out without anybody being hurt.’ No one’s come up with a way to ever indicate to me how that happens,” Biden said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning during a brief appearance in a profile of first lady Jill Biden. An August suicide attack outside the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members and some 170 Afghans.
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Asked whether he was “willing to lose his presidency” by “sticking with” his plan to withdraw, Biden said he had opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan “from the beginning.”
However, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then-Sen. Biden voted to approve the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which authorized the war, and continued to advocate for further commitments in the years after.
Biden continued to push for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, arguing in 2002 that “history will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course.”
“Whatever it takes, we should do it,” Biden said at the time.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Biden’s position appeared to shift and he opposed sending additional troops into Afghanistan under former President Barack Obama.
The Biden administration’s exit from Afghanistan has come under congressional and public scrutiny over claims that the White House was unprepared for the Taliban’s takeover. Biden drew criticism from U.S. allies and leaders in Congress, including Democrats.
His response at the time blaming a deal between the Taliban and his predecessors in the Trump administration, as well as Afghan officials and people, drew consternation. Some officials blamed faulty intelligence.
Others raised concerns about the White House’s airlift of Americans inside the country despite Biden’s Aug. 18 pledge that “if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.” The president conceded on Aug. 31 that “about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave.”
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Biden also came under fire for turning away from the Afghan allies who supported the U.S. and international effort inside the country over two decades. While an emergency airlift helped more than 100,000 people leave Kabul in August, a backlog of special visa applications for Afghans who worked with Americans meant some were left behind.
The president’s job approval fell sharply during the crisis and in the weeks that followed.