WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday defended Vice President Joe Biden for saying that the Taliban isn't an enemy of the United States despite the years spent fighting the militant Islamic group that gave a home to Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden while he plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"It's only regrettable when taken out of context," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the vice president's remarks in an interview published
"It is a simple fact that we went into Afghanistan because of the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. We are there now to ultimately defeat Al Qaeda, to stabilize Afghanistan and stabilize it in part so that Al Qaeda or other terrorists who have as their aim attacks on the United States cannot establish a foothold again in that country," Carney continued.
During Biden's interview with Newsweek last week, the vice president said it's "good enough" for the U.S. if Afghanistan stops being a "haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America" and its allies. He added that the U.S. is supportive of a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban even if it's questionable whether a reconciliation is possible.
"Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That's critical," Biden said. "There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy, because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us."
Biden said that the U.S. is on a dual track in Afghanistan -- keep the pressure on Al Qaeda and support a government that is strong enough to "negotiate with and not be overthrown by the Taliban."
Carney said the U.S. did not send the military into Afghanistan because the Taliban were in power, and the vice president's point was that "while we are fighting them, it is not the elimination -- the elimination of the Taliban is not the issue here."