President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended his withdrawal from Afghanistan and vowed to evacuate any Americans left in the country that want to leave, ABC News reports.
"Let me be clear, leaving August the 31st, is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives," Biden said after coming under fire for a chaotic exit and.
Biden praised the “extraordinary success” of the military in carrying out a mass evacuation in two weeks but blamed the Afghan government and army for its collapse that allowed the Taliban to take over.
"So, we were left with a simple decision. Either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren't leaving and commit to another tens of thousands more troops going back to war," he said. "That was the choice, the real choice. Between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit."
"It was time to be honest with the American people again,” he added. “We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refuse to send another generation of America's sons and daughters to fight a war that should've ended long ago."
Vows to bring home remaining Americans:
Biden said that there were between 100 and 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, many of whom have family ties to the country and are dual citizens.
"The bottom line, 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out," Biden said.
Turkey and Qatar are expected to continue evacuating Americans and Afghan allies cleared to enter other countries.
Biden defends messy evacuation:
Biden admitted that intelligence suggested that the “Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown, turned out not to be accurate” but argued that the withdrawal would not have been different under other circumstances and stressed that the decision to pull out was “based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers.”
"I take responsibility for the decision. Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner, and couldn't this have been done -- been done in a more orderly manner? I respectfully disagree," he said. "The bottom line is, there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced. None."