US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden

Taliban warned of swift, forceful response if US personnel attacked, says Biden

ANI | Updated: Aug 17, 2021 06:21 IST


Washington [US], August 17 (ANI): It has been made clear to Taliban that if they attack US personnel or disrupt the process of evacuation of American citizens still in Afghanistan, the response will be swift and forceful, US President Joe Biden said on Monday.
Addressing the nation a day after Taliban takeover of Kabul, Biden said US military mission will be short and focused on "getting our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible".
"As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the US presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful. We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary. Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible," he said.
"And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We will end America's longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed," he added.
Biden said he is the President and the buck stops with him. He staunchly defended his decision to withdraw troops.
"I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me," he said.
Biden said he authorized 6,000 US troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of US and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, "and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan".
He said the US has shut down its embassy and is taking over air traffic control.
"Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights. We're taking over air traffic control. We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats. Our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well. Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan. We'll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel -- the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.
"Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States. In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan, " he said.
Biden said there are concerns about why the US did not begin evacuating Afghans -- civilians sooner.
"Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier -- still hopeful for their country. And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, "a crisis of confidence."
"American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks. The events we're seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan -- as known in history as the "graveyard of empires."
He said what is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future.
"We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps -- made many missteps over the past two decades. I'm now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan -- two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibly on -- responsibility on to a fifth President.
"I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me," he said.
Biden said he was deeply saddened by the facts "we now face".
"But I do not regret my decision to end America's warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world. Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success. Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.
"I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another -- in another country's civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss. This is not in our national security interest. It is not what the American people want. It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve," he said.
Biden said he made a commitment to the American people when he ran for President that he would bring America's military involvement in Afghanistan to an end.
"And while it's been hard and messy -- and yes, far from perfect -- I've honored that commitment.
More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn't going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago.
"Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan.
I know my decision will be criticized, 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 have risked their lives serving our nation. And it's the right one for America.
Referring to terror threats, he said it has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan - al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.
"We conduct effective counterterrorism 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. We've developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed."
Biden said when he came into office, he inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban.
Under his agreement, US forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 -- just a little over three months after I took office.
He said US forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.
"The choice I had to make was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no ceasefire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1," he said.
"There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict. I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces," he added. (ANI)

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