Joe Biden seeks to reassert leadership in United Nations speech after series of blunders

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks to the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly - AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden delivers remarks to the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly - AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Joe Biden defended the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday in a speech to the United Nations in a bid to reassure allies, arguing it was a necessary step to pivot US policy to focus on a global challenge from anti-democratic systems, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

"We've ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan and as we close this era of relentless war, we're opening a new era of relentless diplomacy," Mr Biden said, making his first appearance as president at the UN General Assembly.

Facing criticism of the Afghan pullout, Mr Biden vowed to defend vital US national interests, but said "the mission must be clear and achievable," and the American military "must not be used as the answer to every problem we see around the world."

Mr Biden hoped to present a compelling case that the United States remains a reliable ally to its partners around the world after years of "America First" policies pursued by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Mr Biden said the world is facing a decisive decade and that addressing a variety of challenges "will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity."

He said that "instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes" on challenges such as the global pandemic, addressing climate change, cyber threats and managing the shift of "global power dynamics."

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