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At site of 9/11 plane crash, Biden again defends Afghanistan pullout

‘What’s the strategy? Every place where Al-Qaeda is, we’re going to invade and have troops stay in? C’mon,’ says US president on 20th anniversary of attacks

US President Joe Biden speaks as he visits the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2021. (Jim WATSON / AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks as he visits the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2021. (Jim WATSON / AFP)

SHANKSVILLE, United States — US President Joe Biden, speaking unexpectedly during a visit to the Pennsylvania site of one of the 9/11 plane crashes, again defended the widely criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the US could not “invade” every country where Al-Qaeda is present.

“Could Al-Qaeda come back (in Afghanistan)?” he asked in an exchange with reporters outside a Shanksville fire station. “Yeah. But guess what, it’s already back other places.

“What’s the strategy? Every place where Al-Qaeda is, we’re going to invade and have troops stay in? C’mon.”

Biden said it had always been a mistake to think Afghanistan could be meaningfully united.

Biden said American forces had achieved their central mission when a special forces team killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in a compound in Pakistan.

In this August 21, 2021,file photo provided by the US Marines, US Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, provide assistance at an evacuation control checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps via AP, File)

The US intervention in Afghanistan began after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, eventually drawing the US — joined by key allies — into its longest war.

Biden had begun his day Saturday in Manhattan, attending a televised ceremony marking the September 11 attacks there.

He had not been scheduled to make public remarks. But asked by a reporter about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a subsequent drop in his poll numbers, he shrugged it off.

“I’m a big boy,” Biden said. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

But he also alluded clearly to one source of that criticism, former president Donald Trump.

Referring to “the stuff that’s coming out of Florida,” he mentioned a recent statement that if General Robert E. Lee — who led the troops of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War — “had been in Afghanistan, we would have won.”

The assertion about Lee came in a statement from Trump, who now lives in Florida.

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