- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2021

President Biden on Thursday fired back at a reporter who asked whether he trusts the Taliban, the insurgent group that’s quickly overrunning large parts of Afghanistan as U.S. troops exit.

While the U.S. is pulling out in accordance with a deal it struck with the Taliban last year, Mr. Biden insisted his plan was not based on a belief the Taliban will live up to its end of the bargain.

“No, I do not trust the Taliban,” the president. “It’s a silly question.”

But Mr. Biden, who huddled with military advisers over the situation in Afghanistan Thursday before his public remarks, said he trusts “the capacity of the Afghan military” to keep key areas of the country from falling to Taliban fighters, who have made major gains in recent weeks as the U.S. and NATO withdraw.

In the agreement it struck with former President Trump last year, the Taliban vowed to reduce violent attacks across the country, cut ties with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, and hold direct talks with the official Afghan government in the hopes of striking a power-sharing arrangement. But the Taliban’s campaign across Afghanistan has grown more violent over the past year, and Pentagon and U.N assessments have found strong links still exist between the insurgent group and al Qaeda.

The Taliban has held direct negotiations with the Afghan government, but those talks have not resulted in any sort of peace deal or permanent cease-fire.

SEE ALSO: Biden sets Aug. 31 Afghan exit date amid Taliban surge: ‘Status quo was not an option’

Mr. Biden also bristled at questions about who bears responsibility for civilian deaths and other carnage at the hands of the Taliban moving forward. He said the blame will not lie with the U.S.

“No, no, no,” the president said. “It’s up to the people of Afghanistan to decide what government they want, not us to impose the government on them. No country has ever been able to do that.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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