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Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amid rising fear and chaos in Afghanistan, President Biden staunchly stood by the decision to leave the country on Monday afternoon, saying the U.S. mission there was always “narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building."

Why it matters: Speaking from the White House's East Room, Biden said he will not pass on the conflict to a fifth U.S. president and that the U.S. would no longer fight a war that 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."
  • "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."
  • Biden also said he did not move to evacuate people sooner to avoid a "crisis of confidence."
  • "I am President of the United States of America and the buck stops with me. I'm deeply saddened by the facts we now face. But I do not regret my decision to end America's war fighting in Afghanistan," he said.

Biden said the nation's rapid descent into Taliban rule serves as "proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan. ... What's happening now could just as easily happen five years ago or 15 years in the future."

Why it matters: The Biden administration has faced sharp criticism over its response to the rapid collapse of Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation effort. Evacuation flights were suspended Monday after thousands of Afghans stormed a runway at the international airport in Kabul in attempts to flee the country.

  • At least seven people have been killed during the chaos at the airport, including several Afghans who plunged to their deaths after clinging on to a U.S. military jet that took off from the runway, according to AP.
  • Many Afghans who aided U.S. and coalition forces have yet to be evacuated from the country.

What he's saying: "This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated," Biden said, arguing that Afghan forces gave up and "we could not provide them with the will to fight for that future."

  • "We have made it clear to the Taliban. If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful." 
“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? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth, how many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?
I'm clear in my answer. I will not repeat the mistakes we've made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States.”
— President Biden

The big picture: More than 300,000 Afghans have been internally displaced, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration. Scores of migrants are undertaking dangerous journeys to seek safety.

  • In June, roughly 40,000 people fled to neighboring Iran per week.
  • Afghans who aided U.S. and coalition forces have yet to be evacuated from the country.
  • The Biden administration is still making attempts to secure temporary housing in other countries for those who risk retaliation from the Taliban.

Go deeper

Nov 13, 2021 - World

Air Force official says U.S. plans to maintain presence in Middle East

A Kamov Ka-52 "Alligator" rehearses a demonstration flight ahead of the 2021 Dubai Airshow. Photo Marina Lysteva/Tass via Getty Images

The commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command said on Saturday that U.S. military forces will continue to play an "important role" in the Middle East even as the Defense Department weighs competition with China and Russia, AP reports.

Why it matters: The remarks come as tensions between Iran and the U.S. remain high ahead of a resumption of indirect nuclear talks at the end of the month.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
6 mins ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.

Mike Allen, author of AM
16 mins ago - Economy & Business

Small businesses see hiring as No. 1 worry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Almost every small business owner in a Goldman Sachs survey is having trouble hiring — and two-thirds think the federal government has done too little to ease their hiring, supply-chain and inflation worries.

Why it matters: The Goldman Sachs research gives a vivid window into the continuing headwinds and hardship for entrepreneurs.

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