I’m Jon Finer, President Biden’s Principal Deputy National Security Advisor. Here are some things we think are important about what’s happening in Afghanistan.
First, President Biden has been clear for a long time that the United States went to Afghanistan to get the people who attacked us on 9/11. We accomplished that mission many years ago. President Biden has also been clear that we inherited an agreement that the previous administration made that required a very difficult choice. On the one hand, the president had the choice of increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after May 1st and going back to war with the Taliban — a decision that would have required significant combat and American casualties. On the other hand, the president had the choice of withdrawing American troops and giving the Afghan army the opportunity to defend its own country. After two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the president was not willing to hand this decision off to a successor. He believed that the United States should bring this war to an end.
Second, our most important job right now is to provide security and stability at the international airport in Kabul. That mission was was accomplished, in large part, because we planned for it. President Biden ordered the prepositioning of U.S. forces in the region, and deployed those forces in recent days to ensure that security and stability could be brought to the airport. [Cymbals crash] There are now several thousand Americans troops providing at the airport, and we will have as many as six thousand troops in place in the days to come.
Third, a safe and secure airport is important, because our most important mission right now is providing safe and secure flights out of Afghanistan for Americans and Afghans in need. Already, the United States has brought 2,000 special immigrant visa applicants directly to the United States; we have temporary, ah, housing and facilities for up to 22,000 more Afghans in the United States; and we are working to get as many of these vulnerable Afghans and American citizens out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible in the days ahead.
Fourth, the nature of the terrorist threat has changed significantly since the United States went to Afghanistan in 2001. At that time, Afghanistan presented the most severe threat to the United States. Two decades later, there are a range of countries that threaten the United States from the perspective of terrorism, and the United States addresses that threat without significant troop numbers in those countries. We have developed an over-the-horizon capability to deal with the terrorist threat in Afghanistan as it exists today.
Fifth, the United States is deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. We will use every tool at our disposal — political, economic, diplomatic tools — in order to sustain the gains that women and girls have made over the last two decades, and every future government will be held accountable for how they address this important issue.
Finer’s biography at the Harvard University Kennedy School Institute of Politics explains that he is a Rhodes Scholar, attorney, and journalist who served in a variety of staff roles during the Obama administration. He wrote an article in February 2017 claiming that President Donald Trump had “no foreign policy.”