Biden Says U.S. Couldn't Leave Afghanistan 'Without Chaos Ensuing'

President Joe Biden doubled down on his defense of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in an interview broadcast Thursday, arguing that there was no way to leave the country "without chaos ensuing."

The U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan collapsed last weekend as the Taliban regained control of the country two weeks before the U.S. planned to complete its full withdrawal of forces from the country. As a result, the U.S. has rushed to quickly evacuate Americans remaining in the country, as well as thousands of Afghans that worked with the U.S. and its allies during the two decades of war.

Biden and his administration have received substantial criticism for failing to anticipate the swift Taliban takeover, and for not better preparing to evacuate Americans and Afghans who supported the U.S. efforts in the country. But the president pushed back against these criticisms in an interview broadcast by ABC News on Thursday morning.

"The idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens. I don't know how that happened," the president said.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden said he didn't see a way to leave Afghanistan without "chaos ensuing" in an ABC News interview broadcast Thursday morning. Above, Biden delivers remarks on the nation's coronavirus response and the vaccination program on August 18. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Asked whether there was an intelligence failure leading up to the Taliban's rapid return to power, Biden argued that things happened that no one expected.

"When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government get in a plane and taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained—up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off, that was...what happened," the president said. "That's simply what happened."

Military and intelligence reports leading up to the withdrawal reportedly suggested that the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan could collapse within 30 to 90 days after U.S. troops departed. Kabul actually fell to the Taliban two weeks before the U.S. was intending to complete its withdrawal on August 31. While the Taliban has taken control of the capital, it has thus far not challenged U.S. control of the airport, allowing Americans and some Afghans to safely evacuate the country.

Although Biden's administration is overseeing the withdrawal, former President Donald Trump's administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020. Under the Trump agreement, the U.S. said it would withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by May 1 of this year. After Biden took office, he initially extended the deadline to September 11, then moved it to August 31.

The president has repeatedly defended the withdrawal, saying that the results would have been the same if the U.S. had remained several more years. He told ABC News that the U.S. spent over $1 trillion on the war during its two decades in Afghanistan. "There was no good time to leave," he asserted.

But during a July 8 press conference, Biden dismissed concerns that a Taliban takeover of the country was imminent. The president noted then that the Afghan government had "300,000 well-equipped" troops. He said they were "as well equipped as any army in the world."

"Against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable," Biden said.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for further comment but did not receive a response before publication.