Joe Biden in crisis as Pentagon urged him to keep troops in Afghanistan

Joe Biden concludes press conference at The White House

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US President Joe Biden attempted to appear resolute as he warned those behind the attacks at Kabul’s airport “we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay”. Yesterday, 13 US service personnel were among 90 people killed after two blasts and a gunfight outside the airport in Afghanistan’s capital. Some 143 people, including 15 US personnel, were injured in the attack.

ISIS-K, a regional affiliate of ISIS and the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The horrific scenes in Kabul have led to yet more scrutiny on President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops in such a swift fashion.

On the Evening Standard’s podcast ‘The Leader’, US historian from Nottingham University – Christopher Phelps – outlined that The Pentagon in Washington was eager to keep troops in Afghanistan.

Asked if Mr Biden could have ignored the agreement met between ex-US President Donald Trump and the Taliban, Professor Phelps said: “Yes Biden could have, had he wished, continued the war.

“In fact, The Pentagon’s brass were urging him to stay. The US had about 4000 personnel present when Trump took off and whittled it down to 2000.

“It was a skeletal force but a symbolically potent force on the ground there, and The Pentagon thought that for intelligence reasons and regional stability that it made sense to keep the troops on the ground.

“But Biden thought that could be a justification for decade upon decade upon decade, and billions upon billions upon billions of dollars, as well as more American lives lost.

“He had firmly made up his mind long ago what he would do when he took office.”

Almost 20 years after the Taliban were driven out of power in Afghanistan, the terror group reclaimed control of the country in just a few days as US troops withdrew.

Although Afghan security forces were well funded and well equipped, they put up little resistance as the country fell once more into Taliban control.

US officials admitted they miscalculated the speed at which the Taliban were able to advance across the country.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of Afghanistan’s national security forces: “The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country … and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”

Prof Phelps believes a swift takeover by the Taliban would not have been seen as the most likely outcome by Washington prior to the withdrawal.

He continued: “I have read conflicting reports…I have seen quotations from intelligence officers saying that, actually, Biden had been told that this was a possible scenario.

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“The way the intelligence briefings work, there is a range of possible scenarios laid out. I suspect a near-immediate collapse of the government within two weeks was not at the top of the list.

“The more likely prospect would have been that certain cities in the periphery of the country would fall while Kabul remained in government hands.”

A Republican congressman warned yesterday that the Taliban is now equipped with $85billion (£61billion) of US military equipment which was left behind.

A congressional source told CNN this week: “We are also concerned that some may end up in the hands of others who support the Taliban’s cause.

“My biggest fear is that the sophisticated weaponry will be sold to our adversaries and other non-state actors who intend to use it against us and our allies.”

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