United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that it was time to end America’s longest war and announced his decision to bring back troops from Afghanistan.
“It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something,” Biden said in a televised address. “So, in keeping with that agreement and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal – begin it on May 1 of this year.”
He said that the withdrawal would be done responsibly, deliberately and safely and in full coordination with the country’s allies and partners. Soon after Biden’s announcement, North Atlantic Treaty Organization chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance has agreed to withdraw its nearly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan to match the US president’s decision to pull all American soldiers, reported AP.
In his televised address, the president said that the US went to war because of an incident that happened 20 years ago but cannot explain why the country should stay there now. He was referring to the September 11 attacks in the US in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people. Biden said the troops will be out of the South Asian country before the September 11 anniversary.
Biden said that the US delivered justice by killing former al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden 10 years ago in 2011 but stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since then. He said that the US’ reason to stay in Afghanistan has become “increasingly unclear” even as terrorist threats have evolved.
“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders,” the president said. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result.”
Biden said that he was the fourth president since the troops were sent to Afghanistan. “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth,” he said.
The president said that the US will not be involved in Afghanistan militarily but will continue with its diplomatic and humanitarian work. “We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan,” he said. “We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces.”
Biden said that the US will reorganise its counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of terrorists. “We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil,” he said. “The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well. And we’ll focus our full attention on the threat we face today.”
Biden asked the countries in the region, especially Pakistan, as well as India, Russia, China and Turkey to support Afghanistan. “They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan,” he said.
The president also spoke on many citizens voicing their opinion that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust US military presence in the region to act as leverage. “We gave that argument a decade,” he said. “It’s never proved effective – not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan, and not when we were down to a few thousand.”
Biden said the US now needs to focus on meeting the stiff competition it was facing from China. “We have to strengthen our alliances and work with like-minded partners to ensure that the rules of international norms that govern cyber threats and emerging technologies that will shape our future are grounded in our democratic values – values – not those of the autocrats,” he said.
The US and the Taliban had signed a deal in Doha, Qatar, on February 29 last year to bring peace in Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home. Under the pact, the US had agreed to withdraw its troops in 14 months.
Since the September 11, 2001 attack, the US has spent more than $1 trillion (more than 74 lakh crore) in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan, reported PTI. Around 2,400 US soldiers have died, along with thousands of Afghan troops, civilians, Taliban insurgents.