Politics

Biden says Afghans must 'fight for themselves' as Taliban advances, does not regret U.S. withdrawal

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden called on Afghans to "fight for their nation" as the Taliban makes rapid advances on the battlefield, seizing provincial capitals.
  • Biden said the Afghan military has the training and equipment to win the war, but the nation's leaders must come together to formulate a strategy.
  • In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending America's longest war.
  • The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is nearly complete and is slated to end by Aug. 31.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy from the White House in Washington, U.S. July 19, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Tuesday he does not regret his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a move that effectively ends America's longest war.

"Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over twenty years, we trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces," Biden told reporters at the White House.

"Afghan leaders have to come together," Biden said. "They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation."

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Refugees flee Taliban as it takes cities in Afghanistan

In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

The Pentagon's massive task of removing servicemembers and equipment out of Afghanistan is nearly complete, with the U.S. military mission slated to end by Aug. 31.

As the U.S. withdrawals from Afghanistan, the Taliban has made stunning battlefield advances despite being vastly outnumbered by the Afghan military. Over the weekend, the Taliban swiftly seized five provincial Afghan capitals, taking three in one day alone.

Afghans inspect damaged shops after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.
Abdullah Sahil | AP

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that while the Biden administration plans to continue to provide air support, there was not much else the U.S. military could do.

"We will certainly support from the air, where and when feasible, but that's no substitute for leadership on the ground, it's no substitute for political leadership in Kabul, it's no substitute for using the capabilities and capacity that we know they have," Kirby said.

Kirby added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now leverage the years of training from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.

"They have an Air Force, the Taliban doesn't. They have modern weaponry and organizational skills, the Taliban doesn't. They have superior numbers to the Taliban," Kirby said. "They have the advantages, and it's really now their time to use those advantages."

As the security situation in Afghanistan worsens, the State Department is looking at ways in which to downsize the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

"Obviously it is a challenging security environment and were we able, were we confident and were we comfortable having a larger staffing presence there we would," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday when asked about the reduction in staff in Kabul.

"We are evaluating the threat environment on a daily basis. The Embassy is in regular contact with Washington with the most senior people in this building, who in turn are in regular contact with our colleagues at the [National Security Council] in the White House," Price added.