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President Biden Defends Decision To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan


President Biden said yesterday the U.S. did what it set out to do in Afghanistan. He told reporters it's time to stop sending another generation of Americans to war with no expectation of a different outcome.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build. And it's the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.

KING: Longtime foreign policy analyst Aaron David Miller is with us now. Good morning.

AARON DAVID MILLER: Good morning, Noel.

KING: Where do you stand on the U.S. withdrawal?

MILLER: You know, it's a 20-year-old war where the standard for victory, in my judgment, was never could we win, but when would we leave and what would we leave behind? And, frankly, extrication, the leaving, is not the standard by which you want to judge the political and military performance of probably the most consequential actor on Earth, the United States. I mean, this is the boldest and potentially riskiest foreign policy decision of the Biden presidency so far and one that none of his three predecessors clearly were prepared to take. He is prepared to take it. I just think post-withdrawal - and nobody should be celebrating here. But post-withdrawal is going to be a very ugly picture to say the least.

KING: Let's talk about that. What do you mean when you say ugly picture? What do you expect Afghanistan to look like after the United States leaves?

MILLER: We were promised under several administrations quite a lot. It promised reconstruction. It promised women's rights. It promised a degree of economic dynamism for the country, justice for the 9/11 attackers and the promotion of democracy. Most of that, with the exception of killing Osama bin Laden and weakening al-Qaida, have all fallen flat. And the majority of the country - Afghans remain poor and disenfranchised. You have a kleptocratic elite that scrambled to salvage its privilege and to maintain itself in power. So I think most of those goals will be revealed as not attainable. You're going to have a high degree of domestic turmoil and violence. Whether Kabul falls quickly or in six months or not at all, it's just not the picture that Americans hoped to see. And it's going to remain a poster child for the president, a highly politicized one, I suspect, largely by Republicans and critics of the president, as to why we should not have withdrawn.

KING: There are also a lot of Afghans who bought into these ideas that the Americans brought with them - that the country should be more democratic, that the country should be freer, particularly women who have gained rights over the last couple decades. What does the United States owe to Afghan civilians who had - like women who had no rights under the Taliban?

MILLER: You know, it's a moral hazard. And the president yesterday in his remarks delivered some pretty hard truths. He said he would continue to speak up about the rights of Afghan women, but he also made it unmistakably clear that the future of women, democracy, human rights in Afghanistan is largely a measure for the Afghans to decide - so broken promises to be sure and a lot of hard and bloody truths yet to be delivered.

KING: Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department official. Thanks for your time.

MILLER: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.