Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan

AUGUST 31, 2021/SPEECHES AND REMARKS, State Dining Room,

3:28 P.M. EDT~3:54 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan the longest war in American history.

We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. That number is more than double what most experts thought were possible. No nation no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history. Only the United States had the capacity and the will and the ability to do it, and we did it today.

The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.

For weeks, they risked their lives to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our Allies and partners, and others onboard planes and out of the country. And they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. And they did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists sworn enemies of the Taliban were lurking in the midst of those crowds.

And still, the men and women of the United States military, our diplomatic corps, and intelligence professionals did their job and did it well, risking their lives not for professional gains but to serve others; not in a mission of war but in a mission of mercy. Twenty servicemembers were wounded in the service of this mission. Thirteen heroes gave their lives.

I was just at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay but we should never, ever, ever forget.

In April, I made the decision to end this war. As part of that decision, we set the date of August 31st for American troops to withdraw. The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban.                                                                                          That assumption that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown turned out not to be accurate.                                                                But I still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality even that one. And that’s what we did.

So, we were ready when the Afghan Security Forces after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own did not hold on as long as anyone expected.                        We were ready when they and the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our Allies.

As a result, to safely extract American citizens before August 31st as well as embassy personnel, Allies and partners, and those Afghans who had worked with us and fought alongside of us for 20 years I had authorized 6,000 troops American troops to Kabul to help secure the airport.

As General McKenzie said, this is the way the mission was designed. It was designed to operate under severe stress and attack. And that’s what it did.

Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan all the way back as far as March. After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave.

Our Operation Allied Rescue [Allies Refuge] ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out. We got out thousands of citizens and diplomats from those countries that went into Afghanistan with us to get bin Laden. We got out locally employed staff of the United States Embassy and their families, totaling roughly 2,500 people. We got thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others, who supported the United States, out as well.

Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.

The bottom line: Ninety [Ninety-eight] percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.

And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.

In fact, just yesterday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that sent a clear message about what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel, freedom to leave. And together, we are joined by over 100 countries(193개 회원국의 절반 정도만 지지했다는 말!) that are determined to make sure the Taliban upholds those commitments.

It will include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport, as well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

The Taliban has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan, on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans. We don’t take them by their word alone but by their actions, and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met.

Let me be clear: Leaving August the 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline; it was designed to save American lives.

My predecessor, the former President, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May the 1st, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government, but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan.

And by the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.

The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces, but if we stayed, all bets were off.

So we were left with a simple decision: Either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan, or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war.

That was the choice the real choice between leaving or escalating.

I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit. The decision to end the military airlift operations at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the service chiefs, and the commanders in the field.

Their recommendation was that the safest way to secure the passage of the remaining Americans and others out of the country was not to continue with 6,000 troops on the ground in harm’s way in Kabul, but rather to get them out through non-military means.

In the 17 days that we operated in Kabul after the Taliban seized power, we engaged in an around-the-clock effort to provide every American the opportunity to leave. Our State Department was working 24/7 contacting and talking, and in some cases, walking Americans into the airport.

Again, more than 5,500 Americans were airlifted out. And for those who remain, we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose.

As for the Afghans, we and our partners have airlifted 100,000 of them. No country in history has done more to airlift out the residents of another country than we have done. We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. And we’re far from done.

For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer for our troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airma- an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands to a network of volunteers and veterans who helped identifies [identify] those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provided them for their support along the way.

We’re going to continue to need their help. We need your help. And I’m looking forward to meeting with you.

And to everyone who is now offering or who will offer to welcome Afghan allies to their homes around the world, including in America: We thank you.

I take responsibility for the decision. Now, some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and “Couldn’t this have be done have been done in a more orderly manner?” I respectfully disagree.

Imagine if we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control of the government, and it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.

The bottom line is: There is no evacuatio- evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, and threats we faced. None.

There are those who would say we should have stayed indefinitely for years on end. They ask, “Why don’t we just keep doing what we were doing? Why did we have to change anything?”

The fact is: Everything had changed. My predecessor had made a deal with the Taliban. When I came into office, we faced a deadline May 1. The Taliban onslaught was coming.

We faced one of two choices: Follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend it to have or extend to more time for people to get out; or send in thousands of more troops and escalate the war.

To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask: What is the vital national interest? In my view, we only have one(national interest): to make sure Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland.

Remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place? Because we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and they were based in Afghanistan.

We delivered justice to bin Laden on May 2nd, 2011 over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated.

I respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question: If we had been attacked on September 11, 2001, from Yemen instead of Afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in Afghanistan even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001? I believe the honest answer is “no.” That’s because we had no vital national interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America’s homeland and their fr- our friends. And that’s true today.

We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.

This is a new world. The terror threat has metastasized across the world, well beyond Afghanistan. We face threats from al-Shabaab(in Somalia); al Qaeda affiliates(in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula); and ISIS(attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates across Africa and Asia).

The fundamental obligation of a President, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.

That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan. I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan.

But I also know that the threat from terrorism continues( in its pernicious and evil nature). But it’s changed, expanded to other countries. Our strategy has to change too.

We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground or very few, if needed.

We’ve shown that capacity just in the last week. We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our servicemembers and dozens of innocent Afghans.

And to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet.

As Commander-in-Chief, I firmly believe the best path to guard our safety and our security lies in a tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy that goes after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago. That’s what’s in our national interest.

And here’s a critical thing to understand: The world is changing. We’re engaged in a serious competition with China. We’re dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. We’re confronted with cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation.

We have to shore up America’s competitive[ness] to meet these new challenges in the competition for the 21st century. And we can do both: fight terrorism and take on new threats that are here now and will continue to be here in the future.

And there’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.

As we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our nat- our nation the last two decades, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.

To me, there are two that are paramount. First, we must set missions with clear, achievable goals not ones we’ll never reach. And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interest of the United States of America.

This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.

We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan getting the terrorists and stopping attacks morph into a counterinsurgency, nation building trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and unified Afghanistan -something that has never been done over the many centuries of Afghans’ [Afghanistan’s] history.

Moving on from that mindset and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.

And for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say it clearly. To those who wish America harm, to those that engage in terrorism against us and our allies, know this: The United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth, and we will you will pay the ultimate price.

And let me be clear: We will continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid. We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We’ll continue to speak out for basic rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, as we speak out for women and girls all around the globe. And I’ve been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy.

But the way to do that is not through endless military deployments, but through diplomacy, economic tools, and rallying the rest of the world for support.

My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over. I’m the fourth President who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war. When I was running for President, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. And today, I’ve honored that commitment. It was time to be honest with the American people again. We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan.

After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.

After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan a cost that researchers at Brown University estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years in Afghanistan for two decades yes, the American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades.

If you take the number of $1 trillion, as many say, that’s still $150 million a day for two decades. And what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? I refused to continue in a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people.

And most of all, after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan I’ve traveled that whole country brave and honorable service; after 20,744 American servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week, I refused to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan.

We’ve been a nation too long at war. If you’re 20 years old today, you have never known an America at peace.

So, when I hear that we could’ve, should’ve continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.

Maybe it’s because my deceased son, Beau, served in Iraq for a full year, before that. Well, maybe it’s because of what I’ve seen over the years as senator, vice president, and president traveling these countries.

A lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families; missed birthdays, anniversaries; empty chairs at holidays; financial struggles; divorces; loss of limbs; traumatic brain injury; posttraumatic stress.

We see it in the struggles many have when they come home. We see it in the strain on their families and caregivers. We see it in the strain of their families when they’re not there. We see it in the grief borne by their survivors. The cost of war they will carry with them their whole lives.

Most tragically, we see it in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war can ever be low-grade, low-risk, or low-cost: 18 veterans, on average, who die by suicide every single day in America not in a far-off place, but right here in America.(전역군인들이 매일 18명씩 자살하는 나라)

There’s nothing low-grade or low-risk or low-cost about any war. It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan.

As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it’s time to look to the future, not the past to a future that’s safer, to a future that’s more secure, to a future that honors those who served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called their “last full measure of devotion.”

I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.

Thank you. Thank you. And may God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.

 

Statement by President Joe Biden

AUGUST 30, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

I want to thank our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives. The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel(유엔에 넘긴 후속조치). The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer tonight for three things. First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.

Finally, I want to end with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss.

 

Remarks by President Biden on Afghanistan

AUGUST 16, 2021SPEECHES AND REMARKS

East Room

카불이 함락되던 주말(14~15일) 캠프 데이비드에서 휴일보낸 뒤 백악관 복귀 성명

4:02 P.M. EDT  

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  I want to speak today to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan: the developments that have taken place in the last week and the steps we’re taking to address the rapidly evolving events.

My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.

I’ll speak more in a moment about the specific steps we’re taking, but I want to remind everyone how we got here and what America’s interests are in Afghanistan.

We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.
We did that.  We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him.  That was a decade ago. 

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building.  It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.(그렇다면, 한국 등에 요구했던 파르완주의 PRT는 무엇인가. PRT 역시 대테러작전의 일환이었다는 말인가)

Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency or nation building.  That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was Vice President.

And that’s why, as President, I am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021 — not yesterday’s threats.

Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.  These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.
If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan.  We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.
When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban.  Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office.
U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

The choice I had to make, as your President, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.
There would have been no ceasefire after May 1.  There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1.  There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.
There was only the cold reality( of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict.) 
I stand squarely behind my decision.  After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.
That’s why we were still there.  We were clear-eyed about the risks.  We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.
So what’s happened?  Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.  The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.
If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. 
American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.  We spent over a trillion dollars.  We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. 

We gave them every tool they could need.  We paid their salaries(한국 역시 미국의 요청에 따라 MB정권 5억달러, 박근혜정부 3억달러, 문재인정부 *억달러 지출), provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have.  Taliban does not have an air force.  We provided close air support. 
We gave them every chance to determine their own future.  What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.
There’s some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers, but if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that 1 year — 1 more year, 5 more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.

And here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.  If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.

And our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations.  We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.  We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. 
They failed to do any of that.
I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.  Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?   How many more lives — American lives — is it worth?  How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.
Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat, because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us.  The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people.
For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and for Americans who have fought and served in the country — serve our country in Afghanistan — this is deeply, deeply personal.

It is for me as well.  I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone.  I’ve been throughout Afghanistan during this war — while the war was going on — from Kabul to Kandahar to the Kunar Valley.

I’ve traveled there on four different occasions.  (I met with the people.  I’ve spoken to the leaders.  I spent time with our troops.  ) And I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.

So, now we’re fercus [sic] — focused on what is possible. 

We will continue to support the Afghan people.  We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid.
We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.
We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people — of women and girls — just as we speak out all over the world.

I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.  But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments; it’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us. 

Now, let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan.  I was asked to authorize — and I did — 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.

Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights.  We’re taking over air traffic control
We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats.  Our dip- — our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well.
Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan.
We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel — the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.
Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States.
In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.
We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: U.S. non-governmental agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.

I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner.  Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country.  And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”
American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks.

As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful.  We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.

Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible. 
And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal.  We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.

The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”
What is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future.  We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps — made many missteps over the past two decades. 

I’m now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans.  I will not pass this responsibly on — responsibility on to a fifth President.(한국 역시 3개의 민주당 정부와 2개의 새누리-한나라당 정권이었다!)

I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.  Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.

I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face.  But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.
Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success.
Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.
I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another — in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.
This is not in our national security interest.  It is not what the American people want.  It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.

I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for President that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end.  And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.
More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago. 

Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man.  I will not do it in Afghanistan.

I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one. 

Because it’s the right one — it’s the right decision for our people.  The right one for our brave service members who have risked their lives serving our nation.  And it’s the right one for America. 

So, thank you.  May God protect our troops, our diplomats, and all of the brave Americans serving in harm’s way.

4:21 P.M. EDT

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Statement by President Joe Biden on Afghanistan

AUGUST 14, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

Over the past several days, I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them direction on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.

First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.

Second, I have ordered our Armed Forces and our Intelligence Community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.

Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, (via our Combatant Commander, )that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.

Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole-of-government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.

That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.

America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda. And yet, 10 years later, when I became President, a small number of U.S. troops still remained on the ground, in harm’s way, with a looming deadline to withdraw them or go back to open combat.

Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history. One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.

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Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan

JULY 23, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.  President Biden and President Ghani discussed the situation in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring bilateral partnership.  President Biden emphasized continued U.S. support, including development and humanitarian aid, for the Afghan people, including women, girls, and minorities.  President Biden and President Ghani agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict.  President Biden also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to continue supporting the Afghan security forces to defend themselves. The FY2022 request to Congress for $3.3 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund prioritizes:

  1. $1 billion to ensure the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing have the capabilities and maintenance to support ongoing combat operations, including by delivering additional aircraft, such as the three newly-refurbished UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters delivered to Kabul on July 16;
  2. $1 billion to purchase and deliver key supplies for Afghan forces such as fuel, ammunition, and spare parts; and
  3. $700 million to fund continued payment of salaries for Afghan soldiers.

They deplored the loss of innocent Afghan lives, including through continued targeted killings, as well as displacement of the civilian population, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure, and damage to communication networks. The United States recently announced more than $266 million in additional humanitarian assistance and released $300 million in development and other non-humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people. The President has also requested an additional $364 million in development and other non-humanitarian assistance for the State Department and USAID for FY2022.  

President Biden urged continued work for unity among Afghan leaders on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the values on which it is based.  The two leaders discussed the importance of Afghans coming together to support their common interest in security and peace, and President Biden underscored continued U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of a durable and just political settlement. 

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Remarks by President Biden on the Drawdown of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

JULY 08, 2021SPEECHES AND REMARKS

East Room 

2:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Earlier today, I was briefed by our senior military and national security leaders on the status of the drawdown of U.S. forces and allied forces in Afghanistan.   

When I announced our drawdown in April, I said we would be out by September, and we’re on track to meet that target.

Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.  The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our troops as they depart.  

Our military commanders advised me that once I made the decision to end the war, we needed to move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown.  And in this context, speed is safety. 

And thanks to the way in which we have managed our withdrawal, no one — no one U.S. forces or any forces have — have been lost.  Conducting our drawdown differently would have certainly come with a increased risk of safety to our personnel.   

To me, those risks were unacceptable.  And there was never any doubt that our military would perform this task efficiently and with the highest level of professionalism.  That’s what they do.  And the same is true of our NATO Allies and partners who have supported — we are supporting, and supporting us as well, as they conclude their retrograde.   

I want to be clear: The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan continues through the end of August.  We remain — we retain personnel and capacities in the country, and we maintain some authority — excuse me, the same authority under which we’ve been operating for some time.

As I said in April, the United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States.  We achieved those objectives.  That’s why we went.

We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.  And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.   

Together, with our NATO Allies and partners, we have trained and equipped over three hu- — nearly 300,000 current serving members of the military — of the Afghan National Security Force, and many beyond that who are no longer serving.  Add to that, hundreds of thousands more Afghan National Defense and Security Forces trained over the last two decades.

We provided our Afghan partners with all the tools — let me emphasize: all the tools, training, and equipment of any modern military.  We provided advanced weaponry.  And we’re going to continue to provide funding and equipment.   And we’ll ensure they have the capacity to maintain their air force.

But most critically, as I stressed in my meeting just two weeks ago with President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah, Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future that the Afghan people want and they deserve.

In our meeting, I also assured Ghani that U.S. support for the people of Afghanistan will endure.  We will continue to provide civilian and humanitarian assistance, including speaking out for the rights of women and girls.

I intend to maintain our diplomatic presedence [presence] in Afghanistan, and we are coordinating closely with our international partners in order to continue to secure the international airport. 

And we’re going to engage in a determined diplomacy to pursue peace and a peace agreement that will end this senseless violence. 

I’ve asked Secretary of State Blinken and our Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation to work vigorously with the parties in Afghanistan, as well as the regional and international stakeholders to support a negotiated solution.   

To be clear — to be clear: Countries in the region have an essential role to play in supporting a peaceful settlement.   We’ll work with them, and they should help step up their efforts as well.   

We’re going to continue to work for the release of detained Americans, including Mark — excuse me — Fre– Frerichs — I want to pronounce the name correctly; I mis- — I misspoke — so that he can return to his family safely.

We’re also going to continue to make sure that we take on the Afghan nationals who work side-by-side with U.S. forces, including interpreters and translators — since we’re no longer going to have military there after this; we’re not going to need them and they have no jobs — who are also going to be vital to our efforts so they — and they’ve been very vital — and so their families are not exposed to danger as well.

We’ve already dramatically accelerated the procedure time for Special Immigrant Visas to bring them to the United States.   

Since I was inaugurated on January 20th, we’ve already approved 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas to come to the United States.  Up to now, fewer than half have exercised their right to do that.  Half have gotten on aircraft and com — commercial flights and come, and the other half believe they want to stay — at least thus far.

We’re working closely with Congress to change the authorization legislation so that we can streamline the process of approving those visas.  And those who have stood up for the operation to physically relocate thousands of Afghans and their families before the U.S. military mission concludes so that, if they choose, they can wait safely outside of Afghanistan while their U.S. visas are being processed.

The operation has identified U.S. facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as in third countries, to host our Afghan allies, if they ch- — if they so choose.  And, starting this month, we’re going to begin to re- — re- — reloc- — we’re going to begin relocation flights for Afghanistan SIV applicants and their families who choose to leave.   

We have a point person in the White House and at the State Department-led task force coordinating all these efforts. 

But our message to those women and men is clear: There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us.

When I made the decision to end the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, I judged that it was not in the national interest of the United States of America to continue fighting this war indefinitely.  I made the decision with clear eyes, and I am briefed daily on the battlefield updates. 

But for those who have argued that we should stay just six more months or just one more year, I ask them to consider the lessons of recent history. 

In 2011, the NATO Allies and partners agreed that we would end our combat mission in 2014.  In 2014, some argued, “One more year.”  So we kept fighting, and we kept taking casualties.  In 2015, the same.  And on and on.

Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that “just one more year” of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely.   

It’s up to Afghans to make the decision about the future of their country.

Others are more direct.  Their argument is that we should stay with the Afghan — in Afghanistan indefinitely.  In doing so, they point to the fact that we — we have not taken losses in this last year, so they claim that the cost of just maintaining the status quo is minimal.

But that ignores the reality and the facts that already presented on the ground in Afghanistan when I took office: The Taliban was at its strongest mil- — is at its strongest militarily since 2001.

The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan had been reduced to a bare minimum.  And the United States, in the last administration, made an agreement that the — with the Taliban to remove all our forces by May 1 of this past — of this year.  That’s what I inherited.  That agreement was the reason the Taliban had ceased major attacks against U.S. forces. 

If, in April, I had instead announced that the United States was going to back — going back on that agreement made by the last administration — [that] the United States and allied forces would remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future — the Taliban would have again begun to target our forces.

The status quo was not an option.  Staying would have meant
U.S. troops taking casualties; American men and women back in the middle of a civil war.  And we would have run the risk of having to send more troops back into Afghanistan to defend our remaining troops.

Once that agreement with the Taliban had been made, staying with a bare minimum force was no longer possible.

So let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many more — how many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?  How long would you have them stay?

Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago.  Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well?  Would you send your own son or daughter?

After 20 years — a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health — I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.

The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago.  We need to meet the threats where they are today.

Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized beyond Afghanistan.  So, we are repositioning our resources and adapting our counterterrorism posture to meet the threats where they are now significantly higher: in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

But make no mistake: Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan. 

We are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.

And we also need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine — determine our future. 

We have to defeat COVID-19 at home and around the world, make sure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic or biological threat. 

We need to establish international norms for cyberspace and the use of emergenc- — emerging technologies.

We need to take concerted action to fight existential threats of climate change.

And we will be more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long run if we fight the battles of the next 20 years, not the last 20 years.

Finally, I want to recognize the incredible sacrifice and dedication that the U.S. military and civilian personnel, serving alongside our Allies and partners, have made over the last two decades in Afghanistan. 

I want to honor the significance of what they’ve accomplished and the great personal risk they encountered and the incredible cost to their families: pursuing the terrorist threat in some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet — and I’ve been almost throughout that entire country; ensuring there hasn’t been another attack on the homeland from Afghanistan for the last 20 years; taking out Bin Laden.

I want to thank you all for your service and the dedication to the mission so many of you have given, and to the sacrifices that you and your families have made over the long course of this war. 

We’ll never forget those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country in Afghanistan, nor those whose lives have been immeasurably altered by wounds sustained in service to their country.

We’re ending America’s longest war, but we’ll always, always honor the bravery of the American patriots who served in it.

May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President — do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?

Q    Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it is not.

Q    Why?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.  It is not inevitable.

Q    Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?  Do you trust the Taliban, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  You — is that a serious question?

Q    It is absolutely a serious question.  Do you trust the Taliban? 

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not.

Q    Do you trust handing over the country to the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not trust the Taliban. 

Q    So why are you handing the country over?

Q    Mr. President, is the U.S. responsible for the deaths of Afghans after you leave the country?

Q    Mr. President, will you amplify that question, please?  Will you amplify your answer, please — why you don’t trust the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a — it’s a silly question.  Do I trust the Taliban?  No.  But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war. 

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Given the amount of money that has been spent and the number of lives that have been lost, in your view, with making this decision, were the last 20 years worth it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know my record.  I can tell by the way you asked the question.

I opposed permanently having American forces in Afghanistan.  I argued, from the beginning, as you may recall — it came to light after the administration was over, last — our administration — no nation has ever unified Afghanistan.  No nation.  Empires have gone there and not done it.

The focus we had — and I strongly support it — and you may remember I physically went to Afghanistan.  I was up in that pass where Osama bin Laden was — allegedly escaped or — out of harm’s way.

We went for two reasons: one, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time.  The second reason was to eliminate al Qaeda’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory.  We accomplished both of those objectives — period.

That’s what I believed, from the beginning, why we should be and why we should have gone to Afghanistan.  That job had been over for some time.  And that’s why I believe that this is the right decision and, quite frankly, overdue.

Q    Mr. President, has the civilian government hailed the people of Afghanistan?

Q    Mr. President, thank you very much.  Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.

THE PRESIDENT:  That is not true. 

Q    Is it — can you please clarify what they have told you about whether that will happen or not? 

THE PRESIDENT:  That is not true.  They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion. 

Q    So what is the level of confidence that they have that it will not collapse? 

THE PRESIDENT:  The Afghan government and leadership has to come together.  They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place.  The question is: Will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it?  It’s not a question of whether they have the capacity.  They have the capacity.  They have the forces.  They have the equipment.  The question is: Will they do it? 

And I want to make clear what I made clear to Ghani: that we are not going just sus- — walk away and not sustain their ability to maintain that force.  We are.  We’re going to also work to make sure we help them in terms of everything from food necessities and other things in — in the region.  But — but, there’s not a conclusion that, in fact, they cannot defeat the Taliban. 

I believe the only way there’s going to be — this is now Joe Biden, not the intelligence community — the only way there’s ultimately going to be peace and security in Afghanistan is that they work out a modus vivendi with the Taliban and they make a judgment as to how they can make peace. 

And the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  But we have talked to your own top general in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller.  He told ABC News the conditions are so concerning at this point that it could result in a civil war.  So, if Kabul falls to the Taliban, what will the United States do about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, you’ve said two things — one, that if it could result in a civil war — that’s different than the Taliban succeeding, number one.  Number two, the question of what will be done is going to be implicated — is going to implicate the entire region as well.  There’s a number of countries who have a grave concern about what’s going to happen in Afghanistan relative to their security. 

The question is: How much of a threat to the United States of America and to our allies is whatever results in terms of a government or an agreement?  That’s when that judgement will be made. 

Q    Mr. President, some Vietnamese veterans see echoes of their experience in this withdrawal in Afghanistan.  Do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam, with some people feeling —

THE PRESIDENT:  None whatsoever.  Zero.  What you had is — you had entire brigades breaking through the gates of our embassy — six, if I’m not mistaken. 

The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability.  There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan.  It is not at all comparable. 

Q    And, Mr. President —

Q    Mr. President, can I —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll take him and then I’ll — and then I’ll go — I’ll go to the other side.  Hang on a second.

Q    Mr. President, how serious was the corruption among the Afghanistan government to this mission failing there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the mission hasn’t failed, yet.  There is in Afghanistan — in all parties, there’s been corruption.  The question is, can there be an agreement on unity of purpose?  What is the objective? 

For example, it started off — there were going to be negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan government.  That — that of — it didn’t come to — it didn’t come to fruition. 

So the question now is, where do they go from here?  That — the jury is still out.  But the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely. 

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Mr. President, will the United States be responsible for the loss of Afghan civilian lives that could happen after a —

THE PRESIDENT:  No.

Q    — military exit?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  It’s up to the people of Afghanistan to decide on what government they want, not us to impose the government on them.  No country has ever been able to do that. 

Keep in mind, as a student of history, as I’m sure you are, never has Afghanistan been a united country, not in all of its history.  Not in all of its history.

Q    Mr. President, if this isn’t a “mission accomplished” moment, what is it, in your view?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, there’s no “mission accomplished.” 

Q    How would you describe it?

THE PRESIDENT:  The mission was accomplished in that we get — got Osama bin Laden, and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world.

Q    Mr. President, if “speed is safety,” as you just said in your remarks, are you satisfied with the timeline of relocating Afghan nationals?  Is it happening quickly enough to your satisfaction, if it may not happen until next month, at the end?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, much of it has already happened.  There’s already been people — about a thousand people have gotten on aircraft and come home — come to the United States already on commercial aircraft.  So, as I said, there’s over 2,500 people that as — from January to now, have gotten those visas.  And only half decided that they wanted to leave. 

The point is that I think the whole process has to be speeded up, period, in terms of being able to get these visas.

Q    Why can’t the U.S. evacuate these Afghan translators to the United States to await their visa processing as some immigrants at the southern border have been allowed to do?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because the law doesn’t allow that to happen.  And that’s why we’re asking the Congress to consider changing the law. 

But in the meantime, we can guarantee their safety, if they wish to leave, by taking them to third countries and/or, while the wait is taking place, to come to — to — and hopefully, while they’re waiting there, to be able to bring them back to the United States, if that’s what they choose to do.

Q    And what do you make — and what do you make, sir, of the Taliban being in Russia today?

Q    Mr. President, I’m from Afghanistan.  I am Afghan (inaudible) woman.  Any message — good message for Afghan women in future?  Because they have achievement — they are really concerned about their achievement. 

THE PRESIDENT:  They are very concerned, with good reason. 

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  When I was in Afghanistan — I’ve been there a number of times — I remember being in a school outside and — and, by the way, the schools in Afghanistan are not fundamentally unlike schools in the West Coast, where they have, you know, a — an area in the middle that is sort of like — it looks like a playground and single-story buildings connected around it. 

And I remember saying to — speaking to a group of young women — I guess they were roughly — don’t hold me to this — they look like they’d be 14, 15 years old.  And they’re in school, and there’s a tiered classroom with single light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, as I know you know. 

And I said, “You know, the United States came here to make sure that we got this terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and that terrorists didn’t amass again to — to go after our country.  And then we’re going to have to leave.”  And a young woman said, “You can’t leave.  You can’t leave.”  It was — it was heartbreaking.  “You can’t leave,” she said.  “I want to be a doctor.  I want to be a doctor.  I want to be a doctor.  If you leave, I’ll never be able to be a doctor.”  Well, that’s why we spent so much time and money training the Afghan Security Forces to do the work of defending that.  If every work —

Well, anyway — so, yes, I’m aware. 

I’m going to take one more question.

Q    Mr. President, have you spoken with any Taliban officials about the withdrawal?

Q    (Inaudible) the Taliban being in Russia today — the Taliban —

Q    Mr. — Mr. President, I — thank you.  I wanted to ask: With the benefit of hindsight, you’ve spoken to the fact that the Taliban are sort of at their militarily strongest point that you’ve seen in 20 years.  How do you feel personally about that, with the benefit of hindsight and all of the dollars and investments and American troops that were sent there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Relative to the training and capacity of the ANSF and the training of the federal police, they’re not even close in terms of their capacity. 

I was making the point — the point was that here we were; I was — the argument is, “Well, we could stay because no one was dying.  No Americans are being shot.  So why leave?”  Once the agreement was made by the last administration that we were going to leave by May 1st, it was very clear that a Taliban that had always been a problem was even a more sophisticated problem than they were than before.  Not more sophisticated than the ANSF, the government.  More than they were.

The point being that it would have increased the prospect that they would have been able to take more lives of Americans if they decided we weren’t going to go after them.  That was the point I was making. 

Thank you all so very much.  Thank you.

2:34 P.M. EDT

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Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Meeting with President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah of Afghanistan

JUNE 25, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

President Biden met with President Ashraf Ghani and High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah of Afghanistan. President Biden emphasized enduring United States support for the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls, and minorities, through civilian, development, and humanitarian aid, as well as the continued provision of security assistance to support Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. President Biden expressed his concern about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan, and noted additional emergency U.S. assistance, including three million doses of vaccines, to help the Afghan government respond to the pandemic. President Biden, President Ghani, and Chairman Abdullah concurred on the need for unity among Afghan leaders in support of peace and stability, and President Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to fully support intra-Afghan negotiations. The U.S. and Afghan leaders firmly agreed that although U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, the strong bilateral partnership will continue.

 

Remarks by President Biden and President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Before Bilateral Meeting

JUNE 25, 2021SPEECHES AND REMARKS

Oval Office

4:15 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it’s good to see two old friends. We met many, many times in Afghanistan for long hours. And they’re welcome here. They’ve had a chance to meet with the — all the major players of the administration — from the Secretary of Defense, to the CIA — across the board. And it’s good to have them here in the White House.

The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It’s — it’s going to be sustained. And, you know, our troops may be leaving, but support for Afghanistan is not ending, in terms of support and maintenance of their — helping maintain their military, as well as economic and political support.

And they’ve both got very difficult jobs. Every time I think I’ve got a tough job, I think, Mr. President —

PRESIDENT GHANI: (Laughs.)

PRESIDENT BIDEN: But, seriously, I — they’re doing important work of trying to bring about unity among Afghan leaders up — across the board.

And — and they have to — Afghans are going to have to decide their future of what they — what they want. What they want. But it won’t be for lack of us being a help. There’s going to be a — and the senseless violence that has to stop, but it’s going to be very difficult.

But we’re going to stick with you. And we’re going to do our best to see to it you have the tools you need.

PRESIDENT GHANI: Well, thank you, Mr. President. First of all, let me pay tribute to the 2,448 Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, over a million American veterans who have served with honor and dignity for your security and our freedom.

The United States has not spared any effort in blood or treasure during these years. And as a grateful nation, I want to acknowledge that and ask you —

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.

PRESIDENT GHANI: — to thank the Gold Star families.

Second, President Biden’s decision has been historic. It has made everybody recalculate and reconsider. We are here to respect it and support it.

Third, we are entering into a new chapter of our relationship where the partnership with the United States would not be military, but comprehensive, regarding our mutual interest. And we’re very encouraged and satisfied that this partnership is taking place. Thank you for ordering the priorities.

The Afghan nation is in 1861 moment, like President Lincoln, rallying to the defense of the republic, determined that the republic is defended. It’s a choice of values — the values of an exclusionary system or an inclusionary system.

We’re determined to have unity, coherence, national sense of sacrifice, and will not spare anything.

Just for your information: Today, the Afghan Defense and Security Forces have retaken six districts, both in the south and the north. It’s showing our determination. So I hope that nobody does the Bernard Shaw on us — exaggerating our death before something has happened.

Let us understand that in moments of great transition, things happen. But you will see that with determination, with unity, and with the partnership, we will overcome all odds. Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you all. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Q Mr. President, do you have any reaction to Derek Chauvin being sentenced to twenty-two and a half years in prison?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’ve not been able to hear anything about what’s happened. How long has he been sentenced?

Q Twenty-two and a half years.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I — I don’t know all the circumstances that were considered, but it seems to me — under the guidelines — that seems to be appropriate.

Thank you.

4:20 P.M. EDT

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FACT SHEET: Continued U.S. Support for a Peaceful, Stable Afghanistan

JUNE 25, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

The United States continues to use its full diplomatic, economic, and assistance toolkit to support a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Today, President Biden welcomed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah to the White House to discuss enduring United States support, including through security assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, development and humanitarian assistance to support the Afghan people, and diplomatic engagement in support of peace.

Our strong support and partnership is designed to prevent Afghanistan from ever again being used as a safe haven for terrorism; maintain Afghan stability and build self-reliance; promote economic growth; preserve social gains in education, health and women’s empowerment and the rule of law; protect the rights of women, girls, and minorities; bolster Afghan civil society; and respond to humanitarian needs.  Since 2002, the United States has provided nearly $88 billion in security assistance, $36 billion in civilian assistance, including $787 million specifically intended to support Afghan women and girls, and nearly $3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The United States will continue to provide assistance through its enduring partnership with Afghanistan to promote a peaceful and stable future that the Afghan people want and deserve.  This includes:

Providing COVID-19 vaccines to the Afghan people.  As part of our work to end the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, and in response to a recent surge in COVID cases in Afghanistan, the United States will donate three million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the people of Afghanistan through COVAX. COVAX is working to ship those doses to Afghanistan.

Providingcritical emergency medical assistance to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. USAID is also supporting Afghan efforts to respond to the critical shortfalls in oxygen and medical ventilation support by providing emergency and structural assistance. USAID has ordered over 300 oxygen cylinders and several months’ worth of ventilator consumables to be shipped to Afghanistan as quickly as possible.  Additionally, USAID plans to install oxygen plants in four hospitals that will serve smaller facilities in the surrounding areas. USAID previously announced that they are investing $3.7 million to train clinicians to manage severe cases in the five hardest hit urban cities and provide critical expertise for vaccine deployment. 

Providing needed assistance to help with the pandemic’s impacts. This is in addition to in the past year, the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have provided $40 million to directly help Afghanistan respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, expedited $90 million in other COVID-related development assistance through the World Bank, and reoriented other U.S. development assistance to support Afghan efforts to deal with the pandemic’s consequences.  And, USAID recently committed $38 million in emergency COVID-19 supplemental funding to the UN World Food Program (WFP) to address the food and nutrition needs of approximately 1.2 million COVID-impacted vulnerable people in Afghanistan.  WFP will reach over a million people most affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 with in-kind food assistance to help them meet their food needs for four months. Additionally, with this funding, WFP will reach more than 164,000 children and nearly 28,000 pregnant and lactating women with essential moderate acute malnutrition treatment.

Contributing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need. The U.S. recently announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance to address the pressing needs of an estimated 18 million people in Afghanistan, including more than 4.8 million internally displaced Afghans.  This funding will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, livelihood opportunities, essential health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services to respond to the needs generated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Furthermore, this assistance will help to address protection needs for the most vulnerable Afghans.  This includes women and girls facing particular risks, including gender-based violence, as a result of decades of conflict and the pandemic.

Continuing security assistance.  The Department of Defense’s Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) will provide financial support to the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan Air Force and the Afghan Special Security Forces, including the Special Mission Wing.  Congress appropriated over $3 billion to ASFF in 2021 and the President has requested over $3.3 billion for 2022. 

Sustaining development assistance to support a secure, stable, unified, democratic, and self-reliant Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors.  As part of our commitment to invest in and support the Afghan people, the United States has recently announced an additional $300 million in civilian assistance for Afghanistan in 2021 through both the Department of State and USAID.  The President has also requested an additional $364 million in development assistance for the State Department and USAID for 2022.

This assistance demonstrates our enduring support for the Afghan people.  The funding will be targeted at sustaining the gains of the past 20 years by improving access to essential services for Afghan citizens, promoting economic growth, fighting corruption and the narcotics trade, improving health and education service delivery, supporting women’s empowerment, enhancing conflict resolution mechanisms, supporting the Afghan-led peace process and bolstering Afghan civil society.

Mobilizing diplomatic support for peace and stability. The United States continues to press for a just and durable peace in Afghanistan. The United States recognizes that the best way to protect our interests and the interests of the Afghan people is through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiated settlement. Following intensive efforts by the State Department and a number of our key allies and partners, formal Afghanistan Peace Negotiations started last year for the first time since 2001. We continue to urge all Afghan parties to engage urgently and meaningfully in peace talks aimed at achieving a just and durable settlement that includes protections for the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities.  The appointment of Mr. Jean Arnault as the United Nations Secretary General’s personal representative on Afghanistan and regional issues reflects the critical role of the United Nations in bringing together Afghan sides and regional stakeholders to end Afghanistan’s more than 40-year war.

Standing with Partners in Support of the Afghan people.  Building on the broad international support for the Afghan people, the United States will encourage our partners to continue their security and development assistance, including through the Afghan National Army Trust Fund (ANATF), Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).  The United States will also work closely with other major donors to ensure continued development and humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people.

 

Statement by White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki on the Visit of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation

JUNE 20, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

President Biden looks forward to welcoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, to the White House on June 25, 2021. The visit by President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military drawdown continues. The United States is committed to supporting the Afghan people by providing diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian assistance to support the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls and minorities. The United States will remain deeply engaged with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland. The United States continues to fully support the ongoing peace process and encourages all Afghan parties to participate meaningfully in negotiations to bring an end to the conflict.

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Letter to Certain Congressional Committees Regarding Afghanistan

JUNE 08, 2021STATEMENTS AND RELEASES

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Consistent with section 1215(d) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Public Law 116-283), I have determined that a waiver of the limitation under subsection 1215(a) is important to the national security interests of the United States.

As I announced on April 14, 2021, after almost 20 years, it is time to end America’s longest war and bring our troops home.  I reached this conclusion after conducting a rigorous policy review process and consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, and with the President of Afghanistan and many other leaders around the world.

We went to Afghanistan in 2001 for a clear and just purpose:  to apprehend those who attacked our country on September 11, 2001; to root out al-Qa’ida; and to prevent future attacks against the United States from Afghanistan.  As a Senator, I supported sending our military to Afghanistan for those reasons.  Our original mission had overwhelming support in the Congress and our allies and partners rallied to our side and stood with us in Afghanistan.

We have long since accomplished the objectives that sent us to Afghanistan.  It has been 10 years since we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  The terrorist threat from al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan is significantly degraded.

Over the last 20 years, however, the terrorist threat to the United States has become more dispersed around the globe.  Keeping thousands of troops concentrated on the ground in Afghanistan no longer makes sense as the most effective counterterrorism strategy when the threat has metastasized across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  Our focus and posture need to adapt accordingly.

As we draw down United States troops, we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.  The United States will reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan.  We will hold the Taliban and the Afghan government accountable to their commitments not to allow terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.  And we will refine our national strategy to monitor and disrupt terrorist threats wherever they arise.

Over the past few decades, the United States and our partners have trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops.  The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces currently number close to 300,000, and they will continue to fight valiantly to protect the Afghan citizens.  With the support of the Congress, we will continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.  We will also continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls and to maintain significant humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan.

We will continue to pursue diplomacy and fully support peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.  And we will encourage other nations in the region, especially Pakistan, to do more to support Afghanistan and to support stability in the country.  But we will not allow United States troops to be a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.  That is a recipe for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan. 

We will withdraw responsibly, deliberately, and safely, in full coordination with our allies and partners.  Our NATO allies and operational partners, who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us for almost 20 years and who have also made great sacrifices, will now withdraw alongside our forces as we stand by our enduring principle of “in together, out together.”

Finally, I want to acknowledge the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe as a Nation to the women and men who have served honorably in Afghanistan since 2001.  They and their families have made incredible sacrifices for our Nation that we can never fully repay. I look forward to working with the Congress to continue supporting our forces and veterans and on countering the challenges our Nation faces across the globe.

        Sincerely,

       JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

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Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

APRIL 14, 2021SPEECHES AND REMARKS

Treaty Room

2:29 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  I’m speaking to you today from the Roosevelt — the Treaty Room in the White House.  The same spot where, on October of 2001, President George W. Bush informed our nation that the United States military had begun strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.  It was just weeks — just weeks after the terrorist attack on our nation that killed 2,977 innocent souls; that turned Lower Manhattan into a disaster area, destroyed parts of the Pentagon, and made hallowed ground of a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and sparked an American promise that we would “never forget.”

We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan.  Our objective was clear.  The cause was just.  Our NATO Allies and partners rallied beside us.  And I supported that military action, along with overwhelming majority of the members of Congress.

More than seven years later, in 2008, weeks before we swore the oath of office — President Obama and I were about to swear — President Obama asked me to travel to Afghanistan and report back on the state of the war in Afghanistan.  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 the right and responsibility to lead their country, and that more and endless American military force could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government. 

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’d follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell if need be.  That’s exactly what we did, and we got him.  It took us close to 10 years to put President Obama’s commitment to — 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 are becoming increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved.

Over the past 20 years, the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; al-Nusra in Syria; ISIS attempting to create a califit [caliphate] in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. 

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.  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. 

I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats.  I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.

After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, as well as with Mr. Ghani and many others around the world, I have concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war.  It’s time for American troops to come home. 

When I came to office, I inherited a diplomatic agreement, duly negotiated between the government of the United States and the Taliban, that all U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration.  That’s what we inherited — that commitment. 

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.  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. 

We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.  We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.  And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. 
And the Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal. 

Our allies and partners have stood beside us shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and we’re deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission and for the sacrifices they have borne.

The plan has long been “in together, out together.”  U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th. 

But — but we’ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat.  We’ll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists — of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon.  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.  The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well.  And we’ll focus our full attention on the threat we face today. 

At my direction, my team is refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan, but anywhere they may arise — and they’re in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. 

I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision. (While he and I have had many disagreements over policies throughout the years, )we’re absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage, and integrity of the women and men of the United States Armed Forces who served.  I’m immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone that they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.  We as a nation are forever indebted to them and to their families. 

You all know that less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our armed forces.  The remaining 99 percent of them — we owe them.  We owe them.  They have never backed down from a single mission that we’ve asked of them.

I’ve witnessed their bravery firsthand during my visits to Afghanistan.  They’ve never wavered in their resolve.  They’ve paid a tremendous price on our behalf.  And they have the thanks of a grateful nation.

While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.  We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan.  We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces. 

And along with our partners, we have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today and hundreds of thousands over the past two decades.  And they’ll continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.  They’ll support peace talks, as we will support peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.  And we’ll continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls by maintaining significant humanitarian and development assistance.

And we’ll ask other countries — other countries in the region — to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey.  They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan. 

And over the next few months, we will also determine what a continued U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like, including how we’ll ensure the security of our diplomats.

Look, I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust U.S. military presence to stand as leverage.  We gave that argument a decade.  It’s never proved effective — not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan, and not when we were down to a few thousand.

Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way — U.S. boots on the ground.  We have to change that thinking.  American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.  You know, that’s nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. 

I also know there are many who will argue that we should stay — stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America’s credibility and weaken America’s influence in the world.  I believe the exact opposite is true. 

We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago.  That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. 

Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.  We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11.

We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition we’re facing from an increasingly assertive 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. 

We have to defeat this pandemic and strengthen the global health system to prepare for the next one, because there will be another pandemic. 

You know, we’ll be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20. 

And finally, the main argument for staying longer is what each of my three predecessors have grappled with: No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave. 

In 2014, NATO issued a declaration affirming that Afghan Security Forces would(, from that point on, )have full responsibility for their country’s security by the end of that year.  That was seven years ago. 

So when will it be the right moment to leave?  One more year, two more years, ten more years?  Ten, twenty, thirty billion dollars more above the trillion we’ve already spent? 

“Not now” — that’s how we got here.  And in this moment, there’s a significant downside risk to staying beyond May 1st without a clear timetable for departure. 

If we instead pursue the approach where America — U.S. exit is tied to conditions on the ground, we have to have clear answers to the following questions: Just what conditions require to — be required to allow us to depart?  By what means and how long would it take to achieve them, if they could be achieved at all?  And at what additional cost in lives and treasure?

I’m not hearing any good answers to these questions.  And if you can’t answer them, in my view, we should not stay.  The fact is that, later today, I’m going to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, and that sacred memorial to American sacrifice. 

Section sisty [sic] — Section 60 is where our recent war dead are buried, including many of the women and men who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  There’s no — there’s no comforting distance in history in Section 60.  The grief is raw.  It’s a visceral reminder of the living cost of war. 

For the past 12 years, ever since I became Vice President, I’ve carried with me a card that reminds me of the exact number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That exact number, not an approximation or rounded-off number — because every one of those dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families.  An exact accounting of every single solitary one needs to be had. 

As of the day — today, there are two hundred and forty- — 2,488 [2,448] U.S. troops and personnel who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel — our Afghanistan conflicts.  20,722 have been wounded. 

I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a child serving in a warzone.  And throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq — how proud he was to serve his country; how insistent he was to deploy with his unit; and the impact it had on him and all of us at home. 

We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war.  We have service members who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11. 

War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.  We were attacked.  We went to war with clear goals.  We achieved those objectives.  Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq — in Afghanistan.  And it’s time to end the forever war. 

Thank you all for listening.  May God protect our troops.  May God bless all those families who lost someone in this endeavor.

2:45 P.M. EDT


                               

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