President Biden on Thursday rejected the notion that Afghanistan will look the same on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as it did when the Taliban first ruled, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "There was a guy named Osama bin Laden still alive and well."
Why it matters: In defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Biden has repeatedly stressed that the original purpose of the 2001 invasion was to dismantle al-Qaeda and deny the terrorists a safe haven to launch another attack against the U.S.
The big picture: The U.S. will commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks next month with the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan, despite 20 years of military involvement and billions of dollars spent supporting the Afghan government.
- Biden has criticized the notion of "nation-building" and said it is not up to the U.S. to engage in another country's civil war in order to protect women's rights through military force.
- But military leaders have warned that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups could reconstitute faster now that the Taliban has taken over, and Biden himself acknowledged that the threat could return sooner than anticipated.
What they're saying: "It's not true. They're not going to look just like they were when we were attacked," Biden responded when asked how he will explain the Taliban controlling Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
- "There was a guy named Osama bin Laden still alive and well. They were organized in a big way that they had significant help from other parts of the world," he continued.
- "We went there for two reasons, George, two reasons. One, to get bin Laden, and two, to wipe out as best we could — and we did — al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did it."