On Thursday, US President Joe Biden defended the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, stressing that the fall of the country to the Taliban is “not inevitable”, and stressing that the US withdrawal will be completed at the end of August.
However, Biden questioned the ability of the Afghan government to extend its control over the entire territory of the country, nearly 20 years after the United States overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Biden said that the US military “achieved” its goals in Afghanistan, by killing the leader of “Al-Qaeda” Osama bin Laden, striking the organization’s capabilities and preventing further attacks on American soil.
He added, “We are ending the longest war” in US history, declaring that the withdrawal will be completed on August 31, before the date he had set on September 11.
The Pentagon announced that the withdrawal was 90 percent complete.
Biden considered that maintaining “the status quo is not an option,” referring to the continued US military deployment in Afghanistan. “I will not send a new generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan,” he added.
Biden stressed that “the United States cannot remain constrained by policies designed to respond to the requirements of the world,” as it was doing 20 years ago, stressing at the same time the need to address current threats.
The US President pointed out that the United States did not interfere in the Asian country two decades ago to “build a nation,” stressing that this is the “responsibility” of the Afghans.
But he acknowledged that the future in Afghanistan looks uncertain. When asked whether the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan was “inevitable”, Biden replied, “No, it is not.”
Despite this, he admitted that “the existence of a unified government in Afghanistan that controls the entire country is unlikely.”
The Taliban announced that it had taken control of 100 provinces out of about 400 in the country.
Biden said that “the Afghan government (..) must come together.” He added that the Afghans “have the ability to maintain the current government, but the question is, will they create the cohesion required for that?”
The US president expressed his confidence in the Afghan forces, which received years of training and equipment against the Taliban from the United States.
“I don’t trust the Taliban, I trust the ability of the Afghan army,” Biden said.
He strongly refused to compare the situation in Afghanistan to the American experience in Vietnam. “The Taliban are not the North Vietnamese army,” he said, stressing the inadmissibility of comparison in terms of capabilities.
“In no case will you witness the evacuation of people by air from the roof of the US embassy in Afghanistan,” he said, adding, “There is no comparison.”
The Taliban welcomed Biden’s comments.
The movement’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said that “the exit of US and foreign forces a day or an hour earlier is a positive step.”
Biden’s statements coincided with the intensification of battles between the Taliban and the Afghan army for the second day in a row in the city of Qala Nu, the capital of Badghis province in northwestern Afghanistan.
After the United States accelerated its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban launched a campaign to control more areas of the country, amid growing fears of the collapse of Afghan forces without American air support.
Plumes of smoke rose above Qala Nu, where the government deployed hundreds of commandos to counter the attack by the Taliban, the first on the capital of a province since the start of the last stage of the withdrawal of US forces.
“The Taliban are still in the city, we can see them passing by on their motorbikes,” said Aziz Tavakoli, a resident of Qala-e-No. He explained that about half of the city’s residents fled it.
The director of health affairs in Badghis, Abdul Latif Rosti, said that at least ten civilians were wounded and taken to the city’s central hospital, since Thursday morning.
The governor of Badghis province, Husamuddin Shams, told AFP that “the Taliban have resumed their attacks on several parts of the city,” but stressed that “the enemy is being repelled as it is fleeing.”
Afghan forces launched a counterattack to retake the city.
Badghis State Council member, Dia Gul Habibi, confirmed that “the situation has not really changed since (Wednesday),” referring to “intermittent” battles in the city.
“Some members of the security forces who joined the Taliban are helping and guiding them,” she said.
On Thursday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stressed that his country is facing a difficult transitional phase, at a time when US and foreign forces are completing their withdrawal, but he stressed that government forces are capable of confronting the Taliban.
“We are witnessing one of the most complex phases of transition on earth,” he said in a speech in Kabul.
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that most of the British military had left Afghanistan as part of the withdrawal of NATO forces, which is taking place in parallel with the withdrawal of US forces.
“For obvious security reasons, I will not say when we will leave,” Johnson told MPs, but “most of our personnel have left.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban appears to be seeking an all-out military victory.
Also, the peace talks between the insurgents, the government and the Afghan government, which have been in place for months, seemed to be on the way to further faltering, after the insurgent movement took control of dozens of new provinces since early May.
On Thursday, Shaheen stressed from Doha that the rebels were still seeking a “negotiated solution”.
“We do not believe in a monopoly of power,” he told AFP.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Taliban has driven residents out of their homes in northern Afghanistan, and is looting or burning some homes, while its fighters are doubling their attacks on government forces.
Biden pledged to continue supporting the Afghan government and its security forces, and said that thousands of Afghan translators who cooperated with US forces would be able to seek refuge in the United States.
“You have a place in the United States, if you so choose,” Biden said, adding, “We will stand with you as you have stood with us.”