Biden sending 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan
President Biden announced on Saturday that the U.S. would send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan to assist with evacuating U.S. personnel amid a rapidly deteriorating situation as the Taliban continue to overtake major provinces and cities in the region.
In a statement released by the White House on Saturday afternoon, the president doubled down, defending his decision, stating that continued military presence in the region “would not have made a difference” after more than 20 years of conflict in the country.
“Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in US history,” Biden said.
“One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” he continued.
The president added that around 5,000 troops would be deployed to help draw down its embassy staff and evacuate Afghans — more troops than the 3,000 previously announced would be deployed for the effort on Thursday.
A Defense official told Reuters that only 1,000 new troops would be added to the country. The number includes the 3,000 troops scheduled to be deployed over the week and 1,000 troops already on the ground.
The news comes amid a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where full control of the country by the insurgent group could be close at hand.
Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city and the government’s northern stronghold fell to the Taliban on Saturday. Afzal Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, confirmed that Mazar-i-Sharif had been captured and said all security forces had left the major city.
On Saturday, Biden also appeared to blame his predecessor, former President Trump, whose actions he claimed “left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces.”
“Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he added.
Biden said many administrations have overseen conflict in Afghanistan and that he does not want to see it passed on to another administration.
Ghani has appealed to the international community for its help as the Taliban continue to take over more provinces and major cities. The insurgent group has taken over 24 of the country’s 34 provinces, The Associated Press reported.
Officials are concerned that it will only be a matter of time before Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, is overtaken by the group.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had spoken over the phone to discuss “the urgency of ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to reduce the violence.”
“The Secretary emphasized the United States’ commitment to a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan and our continuing support for the people of Afghanistan,” Price said.
In his statement released Saturday, Biden elaborated on a series of five measures the United States is taking to “to protect our interests and values” in the region as the country ends its military mission.
The five measures include the increase of troops sent over to draw down U.S. personnel.
In addition, Biden said he has “ordered our armed forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats.” He stated that the U.S. has conveyed to Taliban contacts that any action on the group’s part to endanger U.S. personnel will be met with a swift and “strong US military response.”
Biden’s defense of the U.S. troop withdrawal comes amid backlash by some Republicans who have ramped up their criticism of the move in recent days.
In an op-ed published by Fox News earlier this week, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) called the situation in Afghanistan “heartbreaking and infuriating.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a potential contender for the 2024 presidential election, said that the administration was more concerned about critical race theory, a talking point among conservatives, than the U.S. troop withdrawal.
“It’s clear President Biden and his Department of Defense have been more concerned with critical race theory and other woke policies than planning an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Cotton tweeted.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), have continued to defend the move, however, saying that staying even longer would not have changed the outcome in Afghanistan.
“The complete, utter failure of the Afghan National Army, absent our hand-holding, to defend their country is a blistering indictment of a failed 20-year strategy predicated on the belief that billions of U.S taxpayer dollars could create an effective, democratic central government in a nation that has never had one,” Murphy said this week on the Senate floor.
“Staying one more year in Afghanistan means we stay forever, because if 20 years of laborious training and equipping of the Afghan security forces had this little impact on their ability to fight, then another 50 years wouldn’t change anything,” Murphy added.
Updated 5:53 p.m.