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Biden sticks to his guns on Afghanistan exit, says inherited unstable situation from Donald Trump

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday staunchly defended his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline to end America’s longest war

Speaking one day after the last US troops left Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday staunchly defended his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline to end America’s longest war.

 Biden said he inherited an unstable situation from his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, and that the 20-year war "should have ended long ago."

 "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," Biden said in his televised address.

Biden said a deal brokered by the Trump administration last year authorized the release of 5,000 prisoners, including some of the Taliban's top war commanders.

"By the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country," he said.

Even if evacuations had begun in June or July, Biden said there still would have been a late rush to the airport by people wanting to leave.

Biden's handling of the withdrawal has been criticised by Republicans and some of his own Democrats as well as foreign allies. His job approval ratings have plunged to the lowest level since he took over as US President. 

However, he stuck to his guns saying it was "the right decision, the wise decision, the best decision for America."

Pushing back against those who advocate for a small force remaining in Afghanistan, Biden said, "There is nothing low grade or low risk or low cost about any war."

The fate of Americans and Afghans who were not able to get on the last U.S. flights out of Kabul airport this week after the Taliban took over the capital remains a major concern.

U.S. officials believe 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan "with some intention to leave," Biden said. He explained that most of those who remained were dual citizens and long-time residents who earlier had decided to stay, and added the United States was determined to get them out if they wanted to go.

Many lawmakers had called on Biden to extend the Aug. 31 deadline to allow more Americans and Afghans to escape. He said on Tuesday it was not an arbitrary deadline, and that sticking to it was aimed at saving lives.

"I take responsibility for the decision. Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn't this … have been done in a more orderly manner. I respectfully disagree," he said.

He criticized the ousted Afghan government's inability to fight back against swift Taliban advances, which forced the United States and its NATO allies into a hasty and humiliating exit.

Biden said, "the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our allies."

Also read: India and Taliban open direct talks in Doha hours after US exit from Afghanistan