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US President Biden traveled back to Washington from the Camp David presidential retreat to speak from the East Room on Monday.
He said: “I will not repeat the mistakes of the past”, adding that America’s mission was never about “nation building” but preventing a terror attack on US soil.
In a televised address, a defiant Biden said: “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.
“We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped and Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong. Incredibly well equipped. A force larger than the militaries of some of our Nato allies.
“We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force, something the Taliban doesn’t have. We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future.
“We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.
“If Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance of the Taliban now, there is no chance that one year, five more years or 20 more years, US military boots on the ground would have made any difference.
“That is what I believe to my core.
“It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.”
It was his first public remarks on the Afghanistan situation in nearly a week.
Biden and other top officials had been stunned by the pace of the Taliban’s swift routing of the Afghan military.
Biden said the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan is “gut-wrenching” for US veterans who fought there over the past 20 years.
At Kabul’s airport at least seven died on Monday as thousands tried to flee the country after the Taliban’s takeover.
Some fell to the death after clinging to a departing American military transport jet.
The Pentagon confirmed US forces shot and killed two individuals it said were armed.
Biden ordered another battalion of about 1,000 troops to secure the airfield which was closed to arrivals and departures for hours.
The speed of the Afghan government’s collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Biden as commander in chief.
He came under withering criticism from Republicans who said that he had failed.
Biden campaigned as a seasoned expert in international relations and has spent months downplaying the prospect of an ascendant Taliban.
He argued Americans of all political persuasions had grown weary of a 20-year war.
Meanwhile, a further 200 UK troops are to be sent to Kabul to evacuate British citizens and local allies from Afghanistan.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he would not rule out sanctions if the Taliban did not honour its commitments over human rights.
The move brings the total number of troops sent to the capital to urgently deal with the crisis to about 900.
Raab tonight called for international coordination to prevent Afghanistan being used as a base for terrorist groups and a wider approach to ease the plight of the Afghan people.
Useful discussion with @SecBlinken on Afghanistan. Our immediate priority is ensuring the safety of our nationals & those who supported our work over the last 20 years. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/p7bU25MHgh
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) August 16, 2021
Biden remained at Camp David over the weekend, receiving regular briefings on Afghanistan and holding secure video conference calls with members of his national security team, according to senior White House officials.
His administration released a single photo of the president on Sunday alone in a conference room meeting virtually with military, diplomatic and intelligence experts.
Biden was briefed again by his national security team on Monday before returning to Washington.
He is the fourth U.S. president to confront challenges in Afghanistan and has insisted he wouldn’t hand America’s longest war to his successor.
Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also yearned to leave Afghanistan but ultimately stood down in the face of resistance from military leaders and other political concerns.