White House says while Joe Biden wanted to end war, lack of planning by Donald Trump ‘significantly limited’ options.
The Biden administration has defended its decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan, but acknowledged that a “lesson learned” is that Washington must prepare early for “high-risk scenarios”.
The comments, made on Thursday ahead of the release of a report examining the 2021 withdrawal, blamed former President Donald Trump’s administration for creating conditions that led to the chaotic nature of the US exit from the country.
“While it was always [President Joe Biden’s] intent to end that war, it is also undeniable that decisions made and the lack of planning done by the previous administration significantly limited [the] options available to him,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
The internationally-backed Afghan government collapsed and then-President Ashraf Ghani fled in August 2021 as the Taliban took over the capital, Kabul, amid the withdrawal of US forces.
American troops – confined to the area around the city’s airport until their final withdrawal at the end of that month – oversaw a massive, two-week operation to get desperate Afghans out of the country.
During the evacuation, a suicide bombing by the Afghanistan branch of ISIL (ISIS) killed at least 175 people, including 13 US service members.
On Thursday, Kirby said the US government could not have predicted that Afghan forces would “fail to fight for the country” after 20 years of US support.
“Another lesson learned was the need to plan early and extensively for the low-probability, high-risk scenarios,” Kirby told reporters.
He slammed the Trump administration for negotiating a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that he said excluded the Afghan government.
Kirby said Trump “negotiated the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners that were being helped by the Ghani government without consultation with the Ghani government”.