The President has been in favour of withdrawal for years
President Biden has been talking about Afghanistan for the best part of two decades. A timeline of his views shows a consistent desire to withdraw American troops from the country. In a press conference yesterday evening Biden reiterated the same point he has been making for at least ten years: “I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counter-terrorism, not counter-insurgency or nation building.”
Nobody who has paid attention to the President can say this decision came as a surprise. We’ve collected some crucial moments from over the years:
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Then Senator Biden, like the majority of his colleagues, supported military action being taken against Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. On Oct 22, 2001 he said: “our hope is that we will see a relatively stable government in Afghanistan, one that… provides the foundation for future reconstruction of that country.” He voted alongside 77 other Senators to give President Bush the authority to expand the war to Iraq in October 2002 — although as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, he tried to draft a narrower authority for the conflict. That vote on Iraq would change the way Biden saw the Afghan conflict.
Biden’s first public admission of sceptism would come in November of 2005, during a ‘Meet the Press’ discussion:
In a 2008 interview, Biden used the war in Afghanistan to attack President Bush, claiming that the US should “urgently shift our focus” from Iraq to Afghanistan.
As Vice President, a 2008 visit to Kabul cemented Biden’s pessimistic feelings about the war in Afghanistan. One evening, the Vice-President “blew up”.
In 2009, Biden’s then foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken (now Secretary of State) revealed the view of the Vice President towards how the administration should proceed with Afghanistan:
Biden’s dissatisfaction with the war continued. In 2010, Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, reported that Biden lost his temper when discussing the conflict.
Holbrooke further asserted that the Vice President refused to be moved by accusations that, by pulling out of the country, he was abandoning Afghan girls. Biden responded strongly:
In 2011, according to President Obama, he advised against the raid on the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden:
Biden’s decision not to run for the Democratic nomination in 2016 was a disappointment for doves, who saw him as a contrast to Hillary Clinton’s more interventionist leanings.
Rather than viewing the Trump administration’s withdrawal efforts as having tied the hands of the current Democratic President, Trump in many ways fell in line with Joe Biden. A 2017 New York Times article explicitly described Joe Biden as having been the frontrunner to Trump’s Afghan strategy.
As President, on July 8th of this year, Biden announced his plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, stating that:
The White House’s statement over the weekend — like the speech the President made yesterday — was another justification of beliefs long held by him: