Wed, 19 May 2021

US Can't Justify Keeping Troops in Afghanistan, Biden Says

Voice of America
15 Apr 2021, 04:05 GMT+10

President Joe Biden is set to tell Americans on Wednesday that he is withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 because the country cannot justify staying there two decades after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

WATCH LIVE at 2:15 pm EDT

"We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago," Biden says in excerpts of his address released by the White House. "That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021."

"We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result," Biden said.

The U.S. leader said he is now the fourth president to oversee an American troop presence in Afghanistan -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- and vowed to not pass on the responsibility to a fifth.

"After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence professionals, with our diplomats and development experts, and with Congress and (Vice President Kamala Harris), I have concluded that it is time to end America's longest war. It is time for American troops to come home," he says.

He said the U.S. would continue its diplomatic and humanitarian work in Afghanistan and support the Kabul government.

Biden said the U.S. and its allies would support training and help equip nearly 300,000 Afghan forces, as well as peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the withdrawal plans with NATO allies, and said the United States remains committed to Afghanistan's future.

"Together we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve, and now it is time to bring our forces home," Blinken said.

FILE - U.S. soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter to head out on a mission in Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2019. FILE - U.S. soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter to head out on a mission in Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2019.

Biden's decision will keep 3,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline that had been agreed to in a deal Washington negotiated in Doha last year with the Taliban when Donald Trump was president.

Taliban reacts

The Taliban on Wednesday said it wants all foreign forces out of Afghanistan "on the date specified in the Doha Agreement," and that "if the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid added on Twitter, "If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those (who) failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable,"

News of the U.S troop withdrawal plans had already prompted the Taliban to cancel its participation in a 10-day peace conference between Afghanistan's warring sides later this month in Turkey.

Meanwhile, a pessimistic U.S. intelligence report predicted a peace deal is unlikely in the next year and the Taliban - an enemy of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan - will make battlefield gains.

"The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support," said an unclassified version of the report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Republicans react

Several prominent senators of the opposition Republican party are assailing Biden's troop withdrawal decision.

The Biden administration "plans to turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake."

"A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally. "President Biden will have, in essence, cancelled an insurance policy against another 9/11."

Biden's decision is winning praise from those who believe the United States is no closer to winning the war today than it was more than a decade ago or would be in the future.

"It has been harder in Washington to end a war than it is to start one," said Quincy Institute Chief Executive Officer Lora Lumpe, a veteran humanitarian disarmament campaigner. "With this decision Biden has proven his ability to make the right calls even when they're extremely difficult. The White House should be applauded for taking this off ramp from the 20-year-long war."

Ken Bredemeier and National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from Washington, Ayaz Gul from Islamabad.

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