President Joe Biden revealed in a new interview that he still would have sought to pull American forces out of Afghanistan even if former President Donald Trump had not struck a deal with the Taliban last year that paved the way for an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal.
“I would have tried to figure out how to withdraw those troops, yes,” Biden told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview conducted on Wednesday. Segments of the interview aired Wednesday on ABC’s “World News Tonight” and Thursday on “Good Morning America.”
The president’s acknowledgment comes after he and top aides have said the White House’s hands were tied by the Trump-era agreement — brokered last February in Doha, Qatar — arguing that it forced Biden to follow through on an Afghanistan withdrawal in his opening months in office.
The Doha agreement called for a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with a full withdrawal set to be completed by May 1 of this year. One of the deal’s conditions was that the Taliban would halt attacks on American and coalition forces in the meantime.
But Biden has repeatedly argued that maintaining a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan beyond the Doha agreement’s May 1 deadline would have necessitated the deployment of additional American forces to stave off inevitable conflict with the Taliban.
“Less than two months after I was elected to office — I was sworn in — all of a sudden, I have a May 1 deadline. I have a May 1 deadline,” Biden told ABC. “I have one of two choices. Do I say we’re staying? And do you think we would not have to put a hell of a lot more troops [in Afghanistan]?”