US President Joe Biden discusses his “Build Back Better” agenda and the government’s efforts to “lower prescription drug prices” during a speech in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 12, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that he had approved additional military forces to go to Kabul to help bring down the US embassy safely and remove personnel from Afghanistan.
In a lengthy statement, Biden defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, arguing that Afghan troops should fight back against the Taliban forces that were moving through the country.
“Based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to ensure that we can have an orderly and safe withdrawal of U.S. and other Allied personnel,” Biden said. The troops will also support the evacuation of some Afghans who are undergoing a special visa program.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the 5,000 Biden announced, 4,000 had already been announced. About 1,000 were recently approved and would come from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Biden said his administration had told Taliban officials in Qatar that any action that would endanger US personnel “will be met with a swift and strong US military response.”
But he also said that an unrestricted US military presence was not an option.
“Another year, or another five years of US military presence would have made no difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not keep its own country. And an endless US presence in the midst of civil conflict in another country was not acceptable to me, Biden added.
Biden has formally terminated the US military mission in Afghanistan before August 31, as he seeks to withdraw from a conflict that began after Al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
Biden’s move on Saturday came amid mounting pressure to amend a withdrawal plan that is generating some of the toughest criticisms of his six months in office.
A tweet from South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham echoed some of the criticism: “If President Biden really doesn’t regret his decision to pull out, then he’s disconnected from reality when it comes to Afghanistan.”
The Taliban have swept through much of Afghanistan, taking a major city in northern Afghanistan on Saturday and approaching Kabul, where Western countries rushed to evacuate their citizens from the capital.