Petraeus shoots down Biden's claim Afghan army wouldn't fight

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who at one time led U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE's assertion that the Afghan army had little interest in fighting off the Taliban without the backing of U.S. forces is incorrect. 

"Afghan soldiers fought and died in huge numbers over the course of the past two decades," Petraeus said during an interview with NBC News that aired on Monday. "So the idea that they wouldn't fight for their country is something that I think is just not accurate." 

Biden, during remarks from the White House East Room on Monday, blamed the fall of Afghanistan's capital city on the government there and the country's security forces. 

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"The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight," Biden said during the speech. "If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision." 

Petraeus also called the outcome of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, where hundreds of American citizens and thousands of Afghan allies are still trapped and the U.S. military is currently conducting extraction efforts, "catastrophic." 

“I do think there were alternative approaches, options that we in fact should have considered. I've counseled those for many years," the general said. "But we are where we are now and I think what's most important at this moment in time is to realize that there are many that we have so far left behind. And we must do everything we can with all the resources available to us to ensure that we meet the moral obligation to them."

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Biden has faced bipartisan criticism for how he has conducted the withdrawal of troops from the country, where the fate of citizens who helped the Western forces occupying the country for the last two decades is uncertain. 

Nonetheless, the president said Monday he stands "squarely" behind his decision to leave the country, and is not willing to pass the nation's longest war onto a fifth president. 

"I know my decision will be criticized," Biden said during his address to the nation. "But I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States, yet another one, a fifth one. Because it’s the right one, it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America."