During a press briefing Tuesday, President Biden doubled down on his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, as a Taliban resurgence wreaks havoc across the territory.
Biden cited the casualties and expense the U.S. military has incurred over two decades and urged Afghan operatives to finish the job on their own, with American humanitarian and indirect military assistance.
“We spent over $1 trillion over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” he remarked. “And Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands, we lost to death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves. Fight for their nation.”
The president pledged to continue supporting Afghan forces in their struggle with supply shipments of food and equipment and salary payments. He also alluded to deploying air strikes, which the U.S. has conducted to help Afghan fighters on the ground in recent days.
“But they’ve got to want to fight,” Biden said. “I think they’re beginning to realize they’ve got to come together politically at the top. But we’re going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision.”
The Taliban, the Islamic militant organization still waging war in Afghanistan, has captured a number of provincial capitals recently. The insurgents seized Pul-e-Khumri, in the northern province of Baghlan, Tuesday evening, marking the seventh regional capital to fall to the Taliban in about a week’s time. Civilians who saw the Afghan security forces fall back to base after losing ground reported the development to Reuters.
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has been somewhat gradual, with an official end date set by Biden for August 31. Some military experts warned against ending American military presence in Afghanistan, predicting that the Taliban would occupy the void. After its recent gains, the terrorist group now controls over 65 percent of the nation after its recent gains, a European Union official told Reuters Tuesday.