Updated Aug 18, 2021 - World

Biden: No way to withdraw troops from Afghanistan "without chaos ensuing"

Photo of Joe Biden speaking with one finger raised
Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said he saw no way to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan "without chaos ensuing" in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that was previewed Wednesday evening.

Why it matters: Critics have slammed the Biden administration for failing to plan a measured and managed departure, which the Taliban used to their advantage. But in his first on-camera interview since the fall of Afghanistan, Biden defended the withdrawal, calling it "a simple choice."

What he's saying: Five weeks ago, Biden had assured Americans that the "likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."

  • But on Wednesday, Biden told Stephanopoulos that "the idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing — I don't know how that happens."
  • When asked if that was "priced" into Biden's decision, Biden answered in the affirmative before backtracking.
    • "Now exactly what happened, I've not priced in," he said. "Look, one of the things we didn't know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out."
  • He reiterated that the Afghan government, whose U.S.-backed leader, Ashraf Ghani, fled on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on Kabul, was at fault for the country's collapse.
  • "It was a simple choice. If I said, 'we're gonna stay,' then we'd better be prepared to put a whole lot hell of a lot more troops in."

Worth noting: The president grew defensive when Stephanopoulos alluded to photos of hundreds of people crammed into a C-17.

  • "That was four days ago, five days ago!" Biden interrupted.
  • The photo was taken on Monday.

Catch up quick: Since Sunday, Afghans have fled their homes and pleaded with the world to open their borders. The U.S. is working to relocate allied Afghans and their families.

  • The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the U.S. military's intelligence did not indicate that Afghanistan would fall as quickly as it did to the Taliban.
  • Former Afghan President Ghani said he is in "talks to return to Afghanistan." He claims he left Kabul to prevent bloodshed.
  • Senate Democrats have vowed to investigate the U.S.'s "flawed" pullout of troops.
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