President Joe Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in a speech to the nation on Tuesday afternoon.
Biden, starting his speech hours after it was originally scheduled, argued that Trump had left him in a difficult position by negotiating with the Taliban to withdraw from the country by May 1:
My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative government arrangement with the Afghan government [sic]. But it did authorize the release of 5000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders among those who just took control of Afghanistan. And by the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1 deadline, the Taliban would not attack any American forces. But if we stayed, all bets were off. So we were left with a simple decision: either follow through by the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan, or say we were not leaving, and commit another tens of thousands of more troops going back to war.
However, Trump and members of his former administration have noted recently that Trump imposed other conditions on the Taliban, and have argued that the Biden administration abandoned Trump’s existing plan for an orderly, secure pullout.
Biden also claimed, falsely, that the agreement Trump struck with the Taliban did not require the Taliban to reach a deal with the government with Afghanistan, but the deal did specifically require the Taliban to enter into such negotiations.
Biden himself had promised to negotiate with the Taliban during his presidential campaign — and had even promised to leave a small, residual force in the country, a position he attacked during his speech. In a December 2019 debate, he said:
The first thing I would do as president the United States of America is to make sure that we brought all combat troops home and into a negotiation with the Taliban. But I would leave behind special forces in small numbers to be able to deal with the potential threat unless we got a real good negotiation accomplished to deal with terrorism. That’s been my position from the beginning.
Biden said Tuesday: “Couldn’t this have been done in a more orderly manner? I respectfully disagree.”
However, in his April 14 address announcing his new date for withdrawal, Biden promised: “We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners.”
In his speech, Biden also attacked the idea of nation-building, but he himself had argued for nation-building in Afghanistan in 2003, to prevent terror: “In some parts of the [Bush] administration,” he said, “nation-building is still a dirty phrase, but the alternative to nation-building is chaos, a chaos that churns out blood-thirsty warlords, drug traffickers, and terrorists.”
While attacking Trump for accepting an agreement allowing the release of Taliban prisoners, Biden himself allowed the release of Taliban and ISIS-K prisoners when he ordered the Bagram air base to be abandoned, and the Obama-Biden administration had also previously released five senior Taliban commanders in exchange for U.S. deserter Beau Bergdahl.
Biden did not apologize or express regret for the disastrous withdrawal; he merely said that assumptions about the strength of the Afghan military “turned out not to be accurate.” He hailed the evacuation operation as “extraordinarily successful.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.