President Joe Biden refused to be swayed by his top generals to keep 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, instead ordering their swift removal, a stubbornness that “paved the way for havoc” in the country, reports Politico.
The move ultimately led to Taliban forces taking Kabul and declaring the war “over” and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country Sunday to “avoid more bloodshed.”
“The Taliban have won with the judgment of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honor, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,” said Ghani.
The rapid takeover shocked the world and led to many questions on how a collapse could happen so quickly after two decades of attempts to transform the country into a stable democratic ally.
Biden, known for the chip on his shoulder and “lifelong desire to prove doubters wrong,” had long been skeptical of America’s involvement in Afghanistan, according to Politico. This is the same president who ran for the White House more times than anyone who ended up making it there.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for withdrawal, and expecting a different result,” Biden said in late July when he declared it was time to “end the forever war” in Afghanistan.
“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan,” he continued. “Two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley hoped for more time and tried to persuade Biden to keep U.S. forces intact in the country.
But Biden was clear: zero troops meant zero.
“No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave,” Biden said in announcing his decision in late April. “So when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?”
Biden pushed former President Barack Obama to leave Afghanistan, too, telling Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010, that the U.S. had to leave “regardless of the consequences for women or anyone else,” according to the Atlantic.
According to Holbrooke’s diary, the Atlantic reported that when he asked about American obligations to Afghans like the girl in the Kabul school, Biden replied with a history lesson from the final U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia in 1973, saying: “F**k that, we don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.”