Biden defends chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan on 9/11: ‘How else could you get out?’

President Joe Biden defended last month’s turbulent, deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan on Saturday, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that launched the nation’s longest war in the Central Asian country two decades ago.

Biden made his remarks in Shanksville, Pa., where a fourth airliner believed to be headed for the White House on that fateful day crashed after passengers overpowered the terrorist hijackers flying the plane.

“If you had told anybody that we were going to spend $300 million a day for 20 years to try to unite the country after we got [Osama] bin Laden, after al Qaeda was wiped out there,” the president said, in response to a question about whether the U.S. has entered a new phase after the withdrawal.

“Can al Qaeda come back? Yeah, but guess what? It’s already back in other places,” Biden said, leaning in towards the reporter. “What’s the strategy? Every place where al Qaeda is, we’re going to invade and have troops there? Come on.”

The president went on to defend the withdrawal, which was punctuated by hundreds of deaths of Afghans from a suicide bombing a few days before the pullout deadline and Afghans who plunged to their deaths after clinging to a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane upon takeoff. In addition, thirteen U.S. service members were killed in the bombing.

“I just think that…again, what people are…as I read it, I’m told…70 percent of the American people think it was time to get out of Afghanistan, spending all that money,” Biden continued.

“But the flip of it is they didn’t like the way we got out, but it’s hard to explain to anybody, how else could you get out?” he said.

“For example, if we were in Tajikistan, we pulled up a C-130 and said, ‘we’re going to let you know anybody who was involved with being sympathetic to us to get in the plane,’ you’d have people hanging in the wheel well,” he added. “Come on.”

Biden was roundly criticized by Republicans as well as members of his own party for the manner in which U.S. forces pulled out of the country, but also for appearing to be caught unaware that the 300,000-strong Afghan National Army the U.S. trained and equipped over the years fell apart so quickly in the face of far fewer advancing Taliban forces.

The president was also taken to task on social media for his Saturday comments.

Jon Dougherty

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