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US President Joe Biden. Source: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters.
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  • US President Joe Biden says he stands “squarely behind” his decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan
  • He instead blames the Taliban takeover on Afghanistan’s political leaders and security forces unwilling to fight
  • Thousands of American troops have been sent back to Kabul to ensure a safe departure of diplomatic personnel and civilians
  • The panicked evacuation comes just weeks after Biden said the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan was not inevitable
  • The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he stands “squarely behind” his decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan as criticism intensifies over his handling of the exit.

As scenes of chaos in Kabul spread on news platforms and social media, Biden instead blamed the Taliban’s takeover on Afghanistan’s political leaders and the unwillingness of its US-trained army to fight the militant group.

He also warned Taliban leaders that they’d be met with “devastating force” should they interfere with the US withdrawal.

“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” he said.

“I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.”

Thousands of American troops have been sent back to Kabul to ensure a safe departure of diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as Afghan citizens who worked with the United States and could face reprisals at the hands of the Taliban.

The panicked evacuation comes just weeks after Biden said the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan was not inevitable, and that the country had a strong enough military and political standing to defend against an assault.

“The president’s failure to acknowledge his disastrous withdrawal provides no comfort to Americans or our Afghan partners whose lives hang in the balance,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney said in a tweet.

Republican Representative Mike McCaul also weighed in, signalling his party might try to frame the Afghan chaos as a national security issue that exposes the US to terrorist attacks.

“I think it is going to taint this presidency, to a large degree, on national security,” he said.

Still, Biden refused to back down, citing his predecessor — Donald Trump — whose administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban that he said left the group “in the strongest position militarily since 2001.”

“I know my decision will be criticised, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one,” Biden said.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington and pushed back against the Taliban, who had hosted al Qaeda militants responsible for the attack. It’s now feared that al Qaeda, along with other extremist groups, could make a resurgence under Taliban rule.

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