President Biden on Saturday doubled down on his long-standing rationale for withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan as the threat of Kabul falling to the Taliban looms large.
Driving the news: Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for empowering the Taliban and leaving them "in the strongest position militarily since 2001" but said he had to make a choice and that he would not pass on the war to a "fifth" U.S. president.
- Biden announced Saturday that approximately 5,000 additional U.S. troops will be deployed to assist with drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allies as they evacuate the region.
- "When I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict," Biden said.
The big picture: Biden's remarks come as Taliban offensives show no signs of slowing and as the threat of insurgents toppling the Afghan government and isolating Kabul mounts.
- "One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country," Biden said. "And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me."
- Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, the second-largest province in the country, fell to the Taliban on Saturday.
Of note: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke Saturday with President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani about the ongoing situation.
- "The Secretary emphasized the United States’ commitment to a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan and our continuing support for the people of Afghanistan," per U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price.
Go deeper: Behind the scenes of the Biden administration as the U.S. ditches Kabul