Joe Biden ‘stands squarely behind decision’ to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan

US President Joe Biden has given a statement defending his decision to withdraw the American military presence from Afghanistan, which has since fallen to the Taliban

Joe Biden has spoken for the first time since the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, following a devastating 10-day offensive.

The US President was steadfast in his belief that he had made the correct decision, despite increasingly chaotic scenes at Kabul airport today (16 August).

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What did Joe Biden say?

Speaking from the White House, Biden said: "I stand squarely behind my decision."

He said that his predecessor Donald Trump's deal with the Taliban shrunk the number of US troops in Afghanistan from about 15,500 to 2,500, adding that Trump's deal with the Taliban called for US forces to leave by 1 May.

"The Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001," he said.

"The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement, or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the May fighting season."

Biden said that there was no agreement after 1 May to protect US troops from the Taliban after that date. "There was never a good time to withdraw US forces," he said, adding that the country folded "quicker than we anticipated".

He added: "Americans cannot and should not be dying and fighting in a war that Afghans are not willing to fight for themselves.”

Biden said the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani failed to take his advice and negotiate with the Taliban: “Mr Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. But obviously he was wrong.”

On the question of what happens next, Biden said that Washington will "continue to push for diplomacy" in the country.

"Now we're focused on what is possible," he said, adding that the US will “continue to support the Afghan people” and speak out for their “basic rights”.

"I've been clear, human rights must be the centre of our foreign policy, but the way to do it is not through endless military deployments," he added.

What’s happening in Afghanistan?

The Taliban have taken over the city of Kabul and claimed victory in Afghanistan after almost 20 years of a US-led coalition leading the country.

Taliban members were pictured in the presidential palace after President Ghani fled. Thousands of residents and foreign nationals are now also attempting to flee the country.

More than 60 countries, the US and UK among them, have signed a joint statement saying that the Afghan people "deserve to live in safety, security and dignity", and that civil order must return.

The UK has announced that a further 200 UK troops are to be sent to Kabul to evacuate British citizens and local allies from Afghanistan, as Dominic Raab said he would not rule out sanctions if the Taliban did not honour its commitments over human rights.

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