Biden Taliban Remark Draws Heat From 9/11 Rescuer Whose Son Died in WTC

Vice President Joe Biden’s comment in a Newsweek interview that “the Taliban is not the enemy per se” has ignited a firestorm. Retired firefighter Lee Ielpi, who arrived at the World Trade Center within a half hour of the second collapse on September 11, and whose son, Jonathan, also a firefighter, died in the South Tower, is among those incensed. 

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo; John Heller / AP Photo

Lee Ielpi, a retired New York firefighter who lost his son, Jonathan, in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, had this to say about Biden’s remark, made in the Newsweek interview with Leslie Gelb.

I find it troubling that the vice president would make such a statement. I think that if we were to ask the many thousands of families who have lost their loved ones fighting this war in Afghanistan, I don’t think they would be pleased either. The people we’re fighting in Afghanistan are the Taliban. They supported al Qaeda. I don’t know how we can make a statement that they aren’t our enemy. They’ve killed thousands of our soldiers. Ask the families of the thousands of soldiers who have been killed and wounded whether the Taliban are our enemy.

I had the opportunity to meet well over 1,800 wounded vets who are 18, 19, 20, 21 year old, who have come back from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand there are two issues as far as al Qaeda and the Taliban go, but I feel strongly that they’re one and the same. Their hatred for the West is quite obvious. I find it difficult to understand any difference between the two. And I’m quite confident that if we ask our wounded vets and the families of those wonderful vets who gave their lives that they would say the same, that they’re one and the same.

As far as negotiating with the Taliban goes, I don’t oppose peace negotiations as long as it’s going to be an amicable agreement and that Afghanistan does not turn into another Vietnam—where we lost so many beautiful men and women, pulled out, and it went back to the enemy.