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President Biden has announced that he is ordering the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, in time for the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, which began the US invasion and its longest war in that fraught Middle Eastern nation.
“I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: To ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again. We did that. We accomplished that objective. I said, among with others, we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, if need be. That’s exactly what we did, and we got him,” Biden said in remarks to the American people. “It took us close to 10 years to put President Obama’s commitment into form, and that’s exactly what happened. Osama bin Laden was gone. That was 10 years ago. Think about that. We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we’ve stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since. Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan become increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved.”
Biden spoke both with Obama and former president George W Bush before announcing the withdrawal, which is scheduled for completion on September 11 of this year.
It was Bush who began the US operation in Afghanistan in the weeks immediately following the attacks in New York, the Pentagon and the plane brought down in Pennsylvania.
A total of 2,312 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan have died since 2001.
Biden said that a trip he undertook as incoming vice president at Obama’s request settled in his mind that the future of Afghanistan is up to the Afghan people.
“I flew to Afghanistan to the Kunar Valley, a rugged, mountainous region on the border with Pakistan. What I saw on that trip reinforced my conviction that only the Afghans have a right and responsibility to lead their country and that more and endless American military force could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government,” the president said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) backed up Biden’s decision.
“It’s time to bring our troops home. America does not need to fight forever wars. I applaud President Biden’s decision. Unlike President Donald] Trump, President Biden and [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin have developed a careful and thought out plan,” Schumer said. “This isn’t President Trump waking up one morning and announcing a random new policy on Twitter while our generals scramble to catch up. This will be a careful and thought out plan, with a real timetable and a firm end date.”
Afghanistan simply isn’t in the strategic interest of the United States any longer, according to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va), a member of both the Senate committees on foreign affairs and armed services.
“You sometimes have to say, ‘What are the top priorities?’ And right now the U.S.’s top security challenge is working with allies to curb aggression from China and Russia and in my view, promoting prosperity and stability in the Americas. Those are our two top challenges now,” Kaine said. “The Middle East is no longer the top area of strategic, you know, engagement and challenge for the United States. It’s the Indo-Pacific and the Americas. Joe Biden wants to turn our attention and focus on what we need to do in 2021 and beyond.”
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