by UnHerd
Tuesday, 17
August 2021
Explainer
07:15

Joe Biden on Afghanistan, in his own words

The President has been in favour of withdrawal for years
by UnHerd
Joe is taking America off the Afghan stage (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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:

2001

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.

2005

Biden’s first public admission of sceptism would come in November of 2005, during a ‘Meet the Press’ discussion:

“It was a mistake… it was a mistake to assume the President would use the authority we gave him properly.”
- Joe Biden, 2005

2008

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”.

He assailed then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai over corruption and the growing heroin trade. “He was getting more and more irritated,” said Chuck Hagel, a senator who accompanied Biden on the trip. “Eventually I had to grab Joe’s arm to settle him down.” Biden wrested free and slammed his fist on the table in frustration, Hagel recalled. A few minutes later the meeting ended.
- Joe Biden according to Chuck Hagel, 2008

2009

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:

We’re no longer talking about doing nation-building in Afghanistan, we’re no longer talking about doing a counterinsurgency in every nook and cranny of the country, we’re no longer talking about defeating the Taliban, which Biden argued was neither likely nor necessary.
- Joe Biden according to Tony Blinken, 2009

2010

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.

I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights! It just won’t work, that’s not what they’re there for!
- Joe Biden according to Richard Holbrooke, 2010

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:

“Fuck that, we don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.”
- Joe Biden according to Richard Holbrooke 2010

2011

In 2011, according to President Obama, he advised against the raid on the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden:

“Joe weighed in against the raid… [Biden was] concerned about the enormous consequences of failure”
- Joe Biden according to Barack Obama, 2011

2016

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.

Now that Mr. Trump has embraced Mr. Biden’s plan for Afghanistan, he has blurred a line between him and Mr. Obama’s No. 2, as well as with the foreign policy establishment Mr. Trump ran against in 2016.
- Mark Landler, New York Times, 2017

2021

As President, on July 8th of this year, Biden announced his plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, stating that:

“After 20 years — a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defence Forces, 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health — I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
- Joe Biden, July 8th 2021

The White House’s statement over the weekend — like the speech the President made yesterday — was another justification of beliefs long held by him:

I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”
- Joe Biden, August 14th 2021

Join the discussion


  • “I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights! It just won’t work, that’s not what they’re there for!
    – Joe Biden according to Richard Holbrooke, 2010
    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.”

    But this is the core of the Problem.

    Our NGOs are so sick and twisted they think sexual Cultural Imperialism is their main Mission. First they teach gender pronouns to the people in exchange for food, then they ride in their Mercedes to the 5 star hotel, they fly first class to the next benighted country to teach their government about Gender Pronouns if they want money for roads. This what the NOGs did in Afghanistan.

    First in behind the Military are the MSM, that degenerate viper of Woke Imperialism – and they latched on women’s issues, and ended up getting USA to fight 20 years in Afghanistan over that ONE issue. Then the NGOs, those evil people out to bring every degenerate aspect of the West in exchange for money to the corrupt leaders. It is sick how much of it works. Unherd needs to do some stuff on the NGO mindset! Sikkos.

    Western Perverted Cultural Imperialism has done so much harm to every thing it has touched the world would be better if we stayed home than let these insane, self loathing, Wokes, mess up foreign peoples by directing aid in exchange for for lip service to their ‘Sexual Diversity’ religion.

  • Any American child who was raised with the story of Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby knew how this Afghanistan involvement would go… However, the idea is to carry the baton honorably over the line. Not drop it. Biden and his team had time to plan a strong and graceful exit, so why this disgraceful rout? Analogous to the southern border crisis, once again this administration snatches unnecessary defeat from the jaws of a stand-off (if never possible victory). A quasi-President out of an anomalous election, one who can apparently manage to step in manure in a one-horse paddock — how’s this working so far?

  • Did you not read the part where I said either slowly or rapidly? I meant the Taliban takeover. It was obvious from about 2011 that this would happen.
    Probably if the Trump deal with the Taliban had stuck then a lot of the problems you mentioned would have been avoided, but alas it wasn’t to be.

  • To get involved in the discussion and stay up to date, become a registered user.

    It's simple, quick and free.

    Sign me up