President Joe Biden finally publicly addressed the nation regarding the shocking fall of Afghanistan on Monday.
“The truth is this did unfold more quickly than anticipated,” Biden said during his speech at the White House.
Biden said he was willing to accept criticism for his decision, which he defended as the “right” course of action.
“I am president of the United States and the buck stops with me,” he said. “I’m deeply saddened by the facts we now face but I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan.”
Biden began his speech by narrowing the goals in Afghanistan on counter-terrorism, noting that nation-building was never an achievable goal.
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building, it was never supposed to be to build a unified, centralized democracy,” he said.
Biden said he was unwilling to send troops back into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
“American troops cannot – and should not – be fighting in a war—and dying in a war—that the Afghans are not willing to fight for themselves,” he said.
But the president also blamed Trump for negotiating the agreement with the Taliban before he came into office.
“U.S. forces had already drawn down,” Biden said, complaining that the Taliban was already in a stronger position militarily thanks to Trump.
Biden’s tone was a sharp turnaround from his absence in leadership over the weekend.
“I am clear on my answer. I will not repeat the mistakes we have made in the past,” he said, looking back on the 20 years of failure to end the conflict and civil war in Afghanistan.
Hunkered down at Camp David, the president appeared reluctant to speak publicly as the crisis unfolded over the weekend, sending administration officials and statements to the press.
Staff issued photos on social media of Biden sitting alone at a conference room table taking video calls with national security and intelligence officials as proof he was taking the crisis seriously, but it did little to stem public criticism.
Media outlets instead focused on Biden’s past remarks, where he was overly optimistic that Afghanistan would step up to defend itself from the Taliban onslaught.
But by Monday, Biden experienced nearly universal condemnation for remaining publicly silent about the situation, including his attempt to blame former President Donald Trump.
Footage of Afghan people chasing planes leaving the airport in Kabul played in loops as national security experts questioned the president’s thinking ahead of the withdrawal.
Thousands of Americans remain stranded in Kabul as the military rushes to send more resources into the region to evacuate.
The White House finally announced that Biden would return to Washington, DC, to address the country about Afghanistan on Monday afternoon.