President Joe Biden stated Wednesday that there was no way for the U.S. military to withdraw from Afghanistan easily, an apparent contradiction to what he told Americans to expect ahead of the withdrawal.
Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan remains among the lowest points of his first year in office, leading to the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. service members and abandoning more than 100 U.S. citizens under Taliban control alongside tens of thousands of Afghan allies. Prior to the withdrawal, Biden told Americans the operation would be safe and orderly, but he told reporters during his Wednesday press briefing at the White House that his true belief was that it was never going to be easy.
“There was no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily — not possible, no matter when you did it,” Biden said. “I make no apologies for what I did. I have great concern for the women and men who were blown up on the line at the airport by a terrorist attack against them, but the military will acknowledge … that, had we stayed and not pulled those troops out, we would be asked to put somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 more troops back in.”
The statement contrasts with Biden’s optimism before the operation began. He stated in July that the U.S. withdrawal would in no way resemble America’s retreat from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. That didn’t stop even members of his own party from making the connection, however. (RELATED: ‘That Didn’t Happen Just Once’: Gold Star Fathers Allege That Biden Looked Down At His Watch When All Fallen Service Members Came Home)
“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do,” Biden said in April 2021. “And the Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.”
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Biden administration’s argument has been that no one could have predicted the speedy fall of the Afghan government. Biden’s official address defending his withdrawal in late August argued that the U.S. had achieved its goals in Afghanistan and that there was no reality in which the military withdrawal could have gone smoothly.