Aug 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden says he would've withdrawn from Afghanistan even without Trump's Taliban deal

President Biden told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he would have tried to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan even if former President Trump had not struck a deal with the Taliban to get out of the country by May 1.

Why it matters: Biden has sought to deflect blame on to the former president for the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, saying that the peace deal Trump signed with the Taliban in 2020 set the stage for the subsequent withdrawal.

  • Under the terms of the deal, the Taliban agreed not to attack U.S. troops if the military withdrew by May 1.
  • "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," Biden said in a statement last week, hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Driving the news: ."I would have tried to figure out how to withdraw those troops, yes, because ... there is no good time to leave Afghanistan," Biden told Stephanopoulos when asked what he would have done if there was no peace deal.

  • "15 years ago would have been a problem, 15 years from now — the basic choice is, am I going to send your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan in perpetuity."
  • "No one can name for a time when this would end and what constitutes defeat of the Taliban," Biden said.

The big picture: Biden has long been a skeptic of the war in Afghanistan, insisting that the original mission was not to "nation-build" and that it's not realistic to protect human rights with military force.

  • Since Sunday, thousands of Afghans have fled their homes to escape the Taliban takeover, causing scenes of chaos at airports and on roads.
  • Biden has continued to defend the decision to withdraw, telling Stephanopoulos that there was no way to withdraw troops from Afghanistan "without chaos ensuing."

Go deeper: Biden officials say Trump left bare cupboard on Afghanistan

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