WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that US troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan on May 1 to bring the country’s longest war to an end, dismissing demands for US troops to remain to ensure a negotiated resolution to the country’s grinding internal conflict.
Biden admitted in a White House speech that US priorities in Afghanistan had become “increasingly ambiguous” over the past decade. He set a deadline of Sept. 11 for the withdrawal of all 2,500 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan, precisely 20 years after al Qaeda launched the attacks that started the war.
However, by withdrawing without a convincing victory, the US opens itself up to criticism that a withdrawal is a de facto acknowledgement of military strategy failure.
“It was never supposed to be a multi-generational project. We had been hit. We went to battle with specific objectives in mind. “We accomplished those goals,” Biden said, adding that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in 2011 and that the group has been “degraded.” “Afghanistan is an example of this.
“And it’s time to put an end to this never-ending battle,” Biden said.
The war has claimed the lives of 2,448 American soldiers and cost the country $2 trillion. The number of US troops in Afghanistan peaked at over 100,000 in 2011.
The Democratic president had been given a May 1 deadline by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who attempted but failed to withdraw the troops before leaving office in January.
Instead, Biden stated that the final withdrawal would begin on May 1 and would be completed by September 11.
Through withdrawing, Biden is taking chances at the start of his presidency that his predecessors were unable to take, such as the possibility that al Qaeda could resurge or the Taliban insurgency could overturn the US-backed government in Kabul.
“I am now the fourth president of the United States to lead an American military presence in Afghanistan. There are two Republicans. There are two Democrats, “Biden said the following. “I would not delegate this authority to a sixth.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NATO officials in Brussels that foreign troops under NATO command in Afghanistan would leave in coordination with the US withdrawal by September 11, after Germany agreed to follow American plans.
On Wednesday, Blinken spoke by phone with Pakistan’s army chief and addressed the peace process, according to the Pakistani military’s media wing.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he talked with Biden and supports the US decision on Twitter. “We will work with our US partners to ensure a smooth transition,” Ghani said, adding that “we will continue to work with our US/NATO partners in ongoing peace efforts.”
A conference on Afghanistan is scheduled to begin on April 24 in Istanbul, with participation from the United Nations and Qatar.
The Taliban, who were deposed by US-led forces in 2001, have stated that they would not participate in any meetings involving decisions concerning Afghanistan until all foreign forces have left. On Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid urged the US to honour the agreement the group signed with Trump’s administration.
“The remaining problems will be solved if the agreement is adhered to,” Mujahid wrote on Twitter. “If the agreement is not adhered to, the issues will undoubtedly worsen.”
Biden dismissed the notion that US troops could provide the requisite leverage for peace, saying: “We debated it for a decade. It has never been proven to work.”
Biden said, “American troops should not be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.”
Biden also stated that the threat of terrorism is not restricted to a single nation, and that stationing American forces in a foreign country at a high cost is ineffective.
The president made the decision personal, recalling his late son’s service in Iraq and displaying a card with the number of US troops killed or wounded in Afghanistan. Biden later said that the decision to withdraw was not difficult when he visited Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
“It was crystal clear to me,” Biden said.
Officials in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, said peace talks would continue and that their forces would continue to defend the region.
“Now that foreign troops will be leaving in a few months,” Abdullah Abdullah, a top peace official and former presidential candidate, said, “we need to find a way to coexist.” “We agree that in Afghan wars, there is no winner, and we hope that the Taliban understands this as well.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, was one of Biden’s harshest opponents, claiming that the withdrawal would prolong the conflict and potentially give al Qaeda new life.
“What do we stand to gain by withdrawing? We’ll be without the insurance policy in the event of another 9/11 “Graham said his opinion.
Nonetheless, opponents of the US military intervention argue it failed to persuade the Taliban to end the war on American terms. Some analysts attribute Afghanistan’s endemic corruption, Taliban safe havens, and excessively optimistic training targets for Afghan security forces to endemic corruption, Taliban safe havens, and overly ambitious training goals.
Biden slammed previous US attempts to unite Afghans, claiming that such a mission defied centuries of history.
Biden said, “It’s never been done before.”
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