December 2, 2022

Former United States President Barack Obama is hosting a drive-in rally for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden on October 27, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.

Eva Edelheit | Reuters

WASHINGTON – Former President Barack Obama made a formal statement on Afghanistan on Friday, his first since the U.S. military entered the final stages of its withdrawal from the country two weeks ago.

Obama said he and former first lady Michelle Obama were “heartbroken when they heard of the terrorist attack outside Kabul airport that killed and wounded so many US soldiers and Afghan men, women and children.”

“As president, nothing was more painful than mourning with the families of the Americans who gave their lives for our country,” he said.

Obama continued, “As President Biden said, these soldiers are heroes who have dangerous, selfless missions to save the lives of others.”

That line served as a rhetorical nod to Obama’s former vice president and essentially confirmed that Biden is now in charge.

Obama’s testimony came the same day that Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak’s family confirmed he was one of the dead.

“We also think of the families of the deceased Afghans, many of whom stood by America and were ready to risk anything for a chance for a better life,” said Obama.

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Obama is the last of the four US presidents who led the US 20-year war in Afghanistan to comment on the situation.

He is also the president who ordered an additional 30,000 US soldiers into the country in late 2009, a decision that his then Vice President Biden firmly opposed.

At the time, Obama believed that US firepower could sustain Afghanistan’s fragile, corrupt post-Taliban government.

Eleven years later, that government collapsed within hours when the Taliban retook Kabul on August 15 without firing a single shot.

Obama did not mention the entire evacuation effort in his statement on Friday. But earlier this year he said he strongly supported Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war.

“After nearly two decades of putting our troops in danger, it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all we can militarily and that it is time to bring our remaining troops home” Obama said on April 14th.

The two Republicans who led the war, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, have both openly opposed Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops – albeit in different ways.

Bush, who started the war shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, said he feared for the country’s women and girls who are facing almost certain repression due to the Taliban’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.

Bush in July also painted a bleak picture of what awaited Afghans who had worked for the US-led coalition over the past two decades.

“I think of all the interpreters and people who have helped not only the US forces but also the NATO forces, and they are simple, it seems like they are just being left behind to be butchered by these very brutal people and it breaks my “heart”, Bush told Deutsche Welle.

Trump has taken a different path, making a number of statements over the past few weeks that skew his own record and falsely accuse Biden of withdrawing American troops in front of US civilians. Trump has also tried to label refugees evacuated from Afghanistan as “terrorists”.