Joe Biden will declare “it is time to end America’s longest war” as he formally orders the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by September.
“I am now the fourth US president to preside over a US troop presence in Afghanistan,” according to excerpts from his prepared remarks. “Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.
US Presidents have promised to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan since George W. Bush first deployed them in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks to bring down the Taliban government that housed Osama bin Laden and his Islamists from Al -Qaida.
More than 2,300 Americans have died and more than 20,000 have been injured, including 1,500 who lost limbs, in the decades-long war against Afghan and foreign militants, including the Taliban.
The order marks the end of a long effort by Biden to draw a line under US deployments in the country. As vice president under Barack Obama, he opposed a “push” by Pentagon-backed troops. Obama sided with his leadership in uniform at the time.
Biden’s new order does not embrace previous political statements that a withdrawal depends on conditions on the ground, a change that has been grasped by critics of the decision.
Biden called efforts to create the ideal conditions for the US withdrawal as futile.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan in the hope of creating the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, pending a different outcome,” he should say.
Instead, “we need to focus on the challenges that will determine our position and our reach today and in the years to come,” he said.
The number of US troops peaked above 100,000 in 2010 before dropping to a tenth of that number in 2015. The US still has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan today.
“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that took place 20 years ago,” Biden will say, according to the prepared remarks. “That can’t explain why we should stay there in 2021.”
US forces quickly removed the Taliban – a national Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda – from power in Kabul, but two decades later the group still holds large swathes of territory and is ready to return to power. reversing many human rights advances in the intervening years.
“The Taliban are likely to make gains on the battlefield and the Afghan government will find it difficult to keep the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws its support,” the office of the director of national intelligence wrote in a report this week. .
Prospects for a peace deal, which the United States has spent more than two years trying to negotiate under the Trump and Biden administrations, “will remain dim over the next year,” the report added.
The move drew criticism from several prominent Republicans as well as Democrats.
Jeanne Shaheen, a Democratic senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said she was “very disappointed” with Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, saying it undermined Washington’s commitment to the Afghan people and in particular Afghan women.
When the Taliban were in government, women had little access to education or any public role and were required to wear extensive blankets outside the home.
“Although this decision was taken in coordination with our allies, the United States has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan and leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future,” she said in a statement. .
Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, said the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan was “a big mistake.”
“It is a retreat from an enemy that has not yet been defeated and an abdication of American leadership,” he said.
Biden said his administration would continue to support the Afghan government and continue its diplomatic and humanitarian work. The United States will also continue to train and equip the 300,000 Afghan national defense and security forces.
According to US officials, some special operations forces with a limited counterterrorism mandate will likely remain in the country, focused on potential threats to the United States from Isis and Al Qaeda. These forces are not among the 2,500 soldiers who are officially in the country.