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President Biden on Thursday rejected the notion that Afghanistan will look the same on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as it did when the Taliban first ruled, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "There was a guy named Osama bin Laden still alive and well."

Why it matters: In defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Biden has repeatedly stressed that the original purpose of the 2001 invasion was to dismantle al-Qaeda and deny the terrorists a safe haven to launch another attack against the U.S.

The big picture: The U.S. will commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks next month with the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan, despite 20 years of military involvement and billions of dollars spent supporting the Afghan government.

  • Biden has criticized the notion of "nation-building" and said it is not up to the U.S. to engage in another country's civil war in order to protect women's rights through military force.
  • But military leaders have warned that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups could reconstitute faster now that the Taliban has taken over, and Biden himself acknowledged that the threat could return sooner than anticipated.

What they're saying: "It's not true. They're not going to look just like they were when we were attacked," Biden responded when asked how he will explain the Taliban controlling Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

  • "There was a guy named Osama bin Laden still alive and well. They were organized in a big way that they had significant help from other parts of the world," he continued.
  • "We went there for two reasons, George, two reasons. One, to get bin Laden, and two, to wipe out as best we could — and we did — al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did it."

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 safely leaves Afghanistan

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House residence. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue President Biden in Afghanistan in 2008 when he was a senator has safely left the country with his wife and five children, the State Department confirmed to Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Aman Khalili, who was instrumental to the mission that rescued Biden's helicopter when it was caught in a snowstorm according to U.S. veterans, was forced into hiding after the Taliban took over Kabul.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78.

Ina Fried, author of Login
15 mins ago - Technology

Intel CEO blames predecessors for manufacturing woes

Axios on HBO

When it comes to Intel's recent manufacturing problems, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger places the blame squarely on his predecessors — many of whom he notes were not engineers deeply steeped in chip technology, as he is.

Why it matters: Gelsinger has announced a broad plan to reinvigorate Intel by doubling down on manufacturing. However, the strategy depends on the venerable semiconductor giant recovering from recent stumbles.