«Compatriots, the war of Afghanistan he has finished”. Joe Biden tried to convince the American nation yesterday that its decision to leave the Central Asian country was the right one, and that it had no choice but to do it as it has done: after the Taliban returned to power by winning a civil war and without prolonging it beyond what is necessary.
“I refuse to prolong an eternal war, and to make the exit an eternal exit,” Biden said in a speech at the White House in which he called the exit a “great success.” “I am the fourth president who tried to end this war, I ran for election with the promise to end it, and I have kept my word. We must be honest with the American people, that war no longer served any purpose, I refuse to send another generation of men and women to fight in a war that should have ended years ago, “he said.
Biden’s tone was harsh, energetic, emotional at times, in an attempt to combat the impression that the evacuation has been a disaster and has overtaken him. Biden defended that he has been able to extract more than 120,000 people, “more than expected, something that seemed impossible”, in just two weeks.
The president said that 90% of the US citizens there, some 6,000, have been drawn from Afghanistan. Of those US citizens left behind, Biden said they “have dual citizenship and have decided to stay.”
In his speech there were also reproaches. First to the Afghan Government and Armed Forces for having so easily surrendered to the Taliban. And second to Donald Trump, whom he referred to simply as “my predecessor” and whom he blamed for having yielded to the fundamentalists and having agreed with them on this accelerated exit. “It was my predecessor who signed a pact with the Taliban to leave in May, months after I was sworn in,” he said.
“The responsibility is mine,” Biden told the critics received, but clarified that he does not accept them. “I take responsibility for my actions, but to those who say that this massive evacuation should have happened before, I must respectfully say that I do not agree, imagine if this withdrawal had taken place before, during a civil war,” said Biden. That civil war was won by the Taliban in mid-August, before the Afghan Armed Forces surrendered.
Departure at midnight
The last US military transport plane left Kabul one minute before midnight on Monday, 24 hours before the deadline agreed with the taliban. The Pentagon He later admitted that he had left a hundred US citizens who wanted to leave but did not extract them, citing logistical complications.
Moments after the final departure, Biden published a statement in which he said that this withdrawal was supported “unanimously” by the generals who advise him and who are in command of the US armed forces. This Tuesday he repeated it, insisting that the generals recommended an urgent exit.
The general Frank McKenzie, head of the Central Command, added in a public appearance on Monday that he believed that the remaining Americans who want to leave will still be able to do so. “We could not have removed all those who wanted to leave, and there would still be those who would be disappointed if we had,” added the general, by way of justification.
A big question is how the White House is going to pressure the Taliban to maintain minimal respect for the fundamental rights of Afghans, especially women. Biden authorized all U.S. diplomatic personnel in Kabul to work from now on from Doha, the capital of Qatar.
It is not clear if there will be diplomatic relations between Washington and Kabul, although both have maintained contact since 2019 by decision of Donald Trump, who even invited the Islamists to the presidential residence of Camp David, although in the end that trip was cut short by a deadly attack in Kabul.
The last hours of the evacuation from Afghanistan were dramatic. The soldiers had to provide cover for diplomats leaving the country while they extracted essential material and protected themselves from possible attacks, days after an attack by the Islamic State killed 13 soldiers and 180 civilians at the gates of the airport.
After that attack, Biden went on Saturday to receive the remains of the dead soldiers at the Dover air base, and according to what several relatives present have revealed to the US media, there were moments of tension and reproaches for the accelerated and calamitous withdrawal.
The last to leave the country were Ambassador Ross Wilson and Brigadier General Chris Donahue, who coordinated the final stretch of the evacuation. The latter involved a maximum of 5,800 US troops Since 2001, they have served in Afghanistan in total 775,000 US soldiers. Of them, 2,461 died.
Biden always carries in his jacket a card with the number of casualties of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq since the beginning of both wars.