President Joe Biden on Monday defended his decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan, as he drew flak for the fall of the Central Asian country’s government.
“If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision,” Biden said in a speech at the White House.
He noted that Afghanistan’s political leaders “fled the country,” and the military collapsed, “sometimes without trying to fight.”
“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” the president said.
The Taliban have swept into Kabul and triggered chaos at the capital city’s airport, bringing a stunning end to a two-decade campaign in which the U.S. and allies responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and tried to transform Afghanistan.
In his speech on Monday, Biden argued that further involvement in the country wouldn’t have helped much — and took some responsibility for the state of affairs.
“I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference, nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today, and how we must move forward from here,” he said. “I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.”
The turn of events has sparked comparisons with the American withdrawal from Saigon as the Vietnam War ended. It comes just days after Biden was celebrating some progress on his push for domestic spending on traditional infrastructure
— plus “human infrastructure” and other Democratic priorities.
“The political clout of the Biden administration will be diminished somewhat for a time — not completely, and not permanently, but exactly when it was most needed in September and October to push Democratic moderates into supporting Biden’s big expansion of the social safety net while simultaneously making giant investments to build out the clean energy
economy,” said James Lucier, managing director at Capital Alpha Partners, in a note on Monday.
Biden’s approval rating has dipped to a new low of 50%, while disapproval of the president’s performance has risen to a fresh high of 46%, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls as of Monday. The White House also has been grappling with rising inflation and fresh COVID-19 problems due to the delta variant.
Republicans and some Democrats have been expressing dismay with the Biden team’s handling of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, which comes after the Trump administration made a deal with the Taliban last year on a full withdrawal of American troops.
“America’s two-decade involvement in Afghanistan has had many authors. So have the strategic missteps made along the way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, in a statement on Sunday. “But as the monumental collapse our own experts predicted unfolds in Kabul today, responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of our current Commander-in-Chief.”
closed mostly higher Monday, shaking off early losses that were blamed in part on weaker-than-forecast Chinese economic data and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
“Military/terrorist shocks have historically impacted headlines more than bottom lines, since the effects typically dissipated fairly quickly as investors concluded that they would not result in a global recession,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, in a note on Monday.