Earlier this year, President Joe Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan, marking the end of a nearly 20-year occupation.
In an interview that aired Dec. 12 on “CBS Sunday Morning,” the president was asked if he gets discouraged by some of the criticism of his administration. During his response, Biden referenced Afghanistan and said, “I’ve been against that war in Afghanistan from the very beginning.”
Has President Biden been against the war in Afghanistan from the very beginning?
No, President Biden was not against the war in Afghanistan from the very beginning.
WHAT WE FOUND
Three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. Senate voted on a joint resolution “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” By a vote of 98-0, the resolution passed. Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, was one of the 98 voters who supported the resolution.
President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law on Sept. 18. He used the resolution to attack al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, and invade Afghanistan. Al-Qaida had utilized Afghanistan, controlled by the Taliban at the time, as a safe haven.
The U.S. began bombing Afghanistan and invaded the country in October 2001.
On Oct. 22, 2001, Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, addressed U.S. military action in Afghanistan during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. He advocated for a two-pronged strategy: military force and rebuilding Afghanistan.
“So, in the short term, we want to eliminate bin Laden and his top aides and remove Mullah Omar (head of the Taliban) and the Taliban leadership,” Biden said. “In the medium term, we need to establish a relatively stable regime in Afghanistan, which will be incredibly difficult, and roll up al-Qaida cells around the world. And in the long term, we have to deter state sponsorship of future bin Ladens, help rebuild Afghanistan and stabilize Southwest and Central Asia.”
Two days later, Biden told Congress, “This president, in my view, so far has made the right choices. He has done the right thing. He is pursuing the right way.”
In February 2002, two months after the Taliban had been overthrown, Biden spoke about Afghanistan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Again, Biden advocated for American troops to stay in Afghanistan and lead the rebuilding effort.
“Like it or not, our leadership role must include soldiers on the ground,” Biden said. “History is going to judge us very harshly, I believe, if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we are fearful of the phrase ‘nation-building’ or we do not stay the course.”
When Biden was vice president there were numerous news reports in 2009 (including from The New York Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal) that he opposed troop escalation in Afghanistan. Biden acknowledged that stance during a debate in 2019. But Biden’s assertion that he was against the war in Afghanistan “from the very beginning” is false.