President Biden insisted in an address from the White House that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan “was never supposed to be about nation-building,” and said there was no easy time to withdraw.
“The choice I had to make was either to follow through on the agreement to drawdown our forces,” Biden said, “or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat and lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
He added: “I stand squarely behind my decision.”
His speech came amid a heartbreaking week for the Afghan people. After the Taliban took Kabul, thousands flooded the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport, which was under the protection of U.S. soldiers. Here are the latest updates.
It was a scene of desperation and sadness. At one point, Afghans swarmed a departing U.S. military plane, clinging to the hulking aircraft even as it left the ground, an image that quickly circulated around the world.
Satellite images show the chaos of those trying to escape the country.
Thousands of U.S. Marines were en route as their government was evacuating American citizens and “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.” The Pentagon said on Monday that all flights had been suspended — military or civilian — into and out of the airport.
Perspectives: Ajmal Ahmady, the central bank governor for the Ghani government, broke down the swift timeline of the Taliban’s takeover on Twitter. “It did not have to end this way,” he wrote. “I am disgusted by the lack of any planning by Afghan leadership.”