President Biden said Wednesday he didn’t think the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan was a failure and that he thought chaos in the country was inevitable after US troops departed.
In an interview with ABC News, Biden was asked if it was a failure of intelligence, planning, execution, or judgment that led to the situation in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think it was a failure,” the President responded, adding, “look it was a simple choice.”
“When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government getting into a plane and taking off and going to another country. When you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained,” he said, “that was — you know I’m not — that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.”
Asked if he thought the withdrawal could have been handled better, Biden said: “No.”
“I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look — but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened,” he told ABC.
Asked if that was “always priced into the decision,” Biden initially responded yes, but then added that exactly what happened was not part of his calculation.
“But I knew that they’re going to have an enormous — Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out. What they would do. What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having — we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there.”
Some context: In July, Biden used a question-and-answer session in the White House East to downplay the prospect the Afghan government could collapse and the Taliban could take over, saying that outcome was not inevitable.
He had also insisted there would be “no circumstance” in which American personnel were evacuated from the roof of their embassy, rejecting any comparison to the fall of Saigon.
When Biden was asked about pictures showing people packed into a C-17 and video of Afghans clinging to the sides of planes attempting to take off, he sharply cut off the question.
“That was four days ago, five days ago!” Biden said. Many of those pictures were from Monday, just two days before the interview was shot.
When asked what his first reaction was upon seeing the scenes, Biden told ABC, he thought: “We have to gain control of this.”
“We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did.”
The 90-second clip was released by ABC News on Wednesday afternoon, with more scheduled to air on World News Tonight and Good Morning America.