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.
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.