US President Joe Biden, speaking unexpectedly during a visit to the Pennsylvania site of one of the 9/11 plane crashes, again defended the widely criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the US could not "invade" every country where Al-Qaeda is present.
"Could Al-Qaeda come back (in Afghanistan)?" he asked in an exchange with reporters outside a Shanksville fire station. "Yeah. But guess what, it’s already back in other places.
"What’s the strategy? Every place where Al-Qaeda is, we’re going to invade and have troops stay in? C'mon."
Biden said it had always been a mistake to think Afghanistan could be meaningfully united.
Biden said American forces had achieved their central mission when a special forces team killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, in a compound in Pakistan.
The US intervention in Afghanistan began after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, eventually drawing the US—joined by key allies—into its longest war.
Biden had begun his day Saturday in Manhattan, attending a televised ceremony marking the Sept. 11 attacks there.
He had not been scheduled to make public remarks. But asked by a reporter about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a subsequent drop in his poll numbers, he shrugged it off.
"I’m a big boy," Biden said. "I’ve been doing this a long time."
But he also alluded clearly to one source of that criticism, former President Donald Trump.
Referring to "the stuff that’s coming out of Florida," he mentioned a recent statement that if General Robert E. Lee, who led the troops of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War, "had been in Afghanistan, we would have won."
The assertion about Lee came in a statement from Trump, who now lives in Florida. (AFP)
Banner and thumbnail photo: US President Joe Biden waves as he walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 10, 2021, as he travels to New York City and Pennsylvania to commemorate the upcoming 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. SAUL LOEB / AFP