Joe Biden Blames Afghan Military in Defiant First Speech Since Taliban's Takeover

U.S. President Joe Biden defended his decision to pull troops from Afghanistan and deflected blame at the Afghan military amid turmoil in which the country has seen the Taliban seize control.

"I'm now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan—two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth president," Biden told reporters during a nearly 18-minute address at the White House on Monday. "I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference."

Biden announced in April that American military forces would be out of Afghanistan by this year's 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The deadline was recently moved up to the end of August to end the United States' longest war in history.

"We went into Afghanistan almost 20 years ago, with clear goals: Get those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again," Biden said Monday. "We did that."

Biden faced backlash in recent days as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, ultimately toppling the Afghan government in Kabul on Sunday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the insurgents moved in.

Republican members of Congress, in particular, and former President Donald Trump have repeatedly slammed the Biden administration for its handling of the withdrawal.

But Biden said he doesn't regret the decision.

"Our mission in Afghanistan was never meant to be nation-building," he said.

Biden blamed the Afghan military forces for the Taliban's swift takeover.

"We gave [the Afghan troops] every tool they could need," Biden said. "We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide is the will to fight for that."

The Biden administration waved off concerns about whether it was fully prepared to leave Afghanistan. Biden, himself, apparently miscalculated the risks, defending the move just last month and pushing back on suggestions that the Taliban would swiftly move in that ended up being correct.

"There's going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the—of the United States from Afghanistan," Biden told reporters on July 8, arguing the situation was not comparable to Vietnam. "The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."

In reality, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan had to be evacuated, and U.S. citizens in the country were advised to leave.

Biden spent the weekend at Camp David, where he was regularly updated on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan through secured phone lines and video conferences. He abruptly returned to the White House Monday afternoon for the public address but was quickly scheduled to return to the presidential retreat in Maryland and is expected to stay there for several more days.

Biden addresses chaos in Afghanistan
A US soldier (C) point his gun towards an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP/Getty Images