President Joe Biden speaks from the White House.—AP
President Joe Biden speaks from the White House.—AP

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden warned the Taliban on Monday not to disrupt or threaten the evacuation of thousands of American diplomats and Afghan translators at Kabul airport.

The response to any attack would be “swift and forceful”, Biden said in a televised address from the White House.

“We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary,” he said.

The president promised prioritise the treatment of women and girls under the Taliban.

“We’ll continue to speak out on the basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls.”

He defended the US pullout, saying he stood by the policy and that it was time to leave after 20 years of conflict.

“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” he said.

He added that the US national interest in Afghanistan was always principally about preventing terrorist attacks from the war-torn nation on US homeland.

“The mission in Afghan­istan was never supposed to be nation-building.”

Collapse ‘unexpected’

Joe Biden acknowledged that the Afghan government collapsed more quickly than he expected even as he defended his decision to withdraw troops.

“I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said.

“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.”

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2021

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