In his first address since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, United States (US) President Joe Biden on Monday, 16 August said that he "squarely stood by his decision" of withdrawing troops from the country that has now plunged into a humanitarian crisis.
Pointing out that he is the fourth President of the United States since 2001 when the American troops were first deployed in Afghanistan, Biden said:
"I am the President of the United States of America and the buck stops with me."
Describing the visuals emerging from Afghanistan as "gut wrenching", Biden said that he is “deeply saddened by the facts we now face" but did not regret his decision.
His address comes a day after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded that the insurgents had won the 20-year war.
'Taliban Took Over More Quickly Than Anticipated'
Biden said that the events of Taliban taking over unfolded more quickly than his office anticipated because Afghan leaders "gave up and fled the country."
"American troops should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan troops are not willing to fight by themselves," Biden said.
"How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan's civil war, when Afghan troops will not?"US President Joe Biden
"I stand squarely by my decision," Biden said, adding that he will not "repeat mistakes made in the past."
Further, Biden claimed that after 20 years, he had learned "the hard way" that there was never going to be a good time to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan.
He also claimed that countries like Russia and China would enjoy watching America invest billions in Afghanistan.
Biden, however, maintained that the US will continue to support the Afghan people, push for regional diplomacy and speak out for the rights of Afghans.
"We conduct effective counter-terrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don't have a permanent military presence. If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan," he said.
Biden said that he inherited the deal with Afghanistan from his predecessor Donald Trump according to which the US forces were to be out of Afghanistan by May. He also claimed that by the time he took over, US forces had already dwindled and Taliban was militarily the strongest it had been since 2001.
The choice before them, Biden claimed, was either to follow through with that agreement or go back to fighting Taliban in the middle of the "spring fighting season," adding that there would have been more American casualties if they had remained in Afghanistan.
Biden, however, did not take questions from the press after his address.
Prominent Americans React
Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted that Biden "gave the terrorists a win and he knows it."
Meanwhile US Senator Lindsey Graham alleged that by standing by his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, Biden is “standing by to allow the rise of al-Qaeda.”
John Bolton, former assistant to the President for National Security Affairs said: “We ceded control to a terrorist threat that now endangers innocent US citizens, as before 9/11.”
Former President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr took a jibe at Biden, saying: “…he gave a 10 minute speech I’m sure he needs a week or two to recuperate.”
Majority Whip in the US House of Representatives James E Clyburn, however, supported Biden, saying that he “demonstrated he is willing to make hard choices and take responsibility for the outcome.”
Following the withdrawal of a majority of US troops on 1 May, the Taliban advanced rapidly in the country.
Kabul was the only major Afghan city left under the control of the country's central government, until it was taken over on Sunday, 15 August.
Visuals of the tarmac at Kabul's Hamid Karzai airport reflected desperation and panic as people struggled to board flights and flee the battered nation.