The United States is on track to withdraw nearly all of its troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, ending the country’s longest war.
After 20 years, a trillion dollars spent on training and equipment, 2,448 US soldiers killed, and an estimated 50,000 Afghans lost, the US troop withdrawal is 90 percent complete.
President Biden insists that it is now up to the Afghan people to decide about their future.
However, the United States has pledged to continue diplomatic and humanitarian support.
Why is the United States pulling out of Afghanistan?
Instead, Biden argued that American resources – lives, money, and care – were better focused elsewhere.
Now, he said, it is up to the Afghans to defend their country, determining that there was nothing more the United States could do after two decades of war.
“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan without a reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden said from the East Room after receiving an update from his national security team on the deteriorating security situation in the land.
Thursday’s comments were the first time that Biden discussed his decision to end the Afghanistan war in a formal setting since announcing withdrawal plans in April.
A longtime skeptic of the war, Biden resisted pressure from military leaders to maintain a troop presence, determining instead that there was nothing that could be accomplished by staying.
Biden has not questioned himself, even as his decision comes under scrutiny from members of Congress and others who argue that the United States must do more to avoid a full-blown civil war.
He rejected the comparisons on Thursday with the end of the Vietnam War, saying “there was no circumstance in which you were going to see people being lifted from the roof of a US embassy from Afghanistan.”
“The current security situation only confirms that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe to be there indefinitely,” Biden said Thursday.
When will the US military mission in Afghanistan end?
In his comments, Biden said that US troops will end the military mission by Aug. 31, weeks before their original schedule.
After dismantling al Qaeda in the country and killing Osama bin Laden, Biden said the military mission had been accomplished.
“We achieved those goals, that’s why we went. We didn’t go to Afghanistan to build a nation, and it is the right and responsibility of the Afghan people only to decide their future and how they want to run their country,” Biden said. .
The pullout is now more than 90 percent complete, authorities said this week.
The last American troops left Bagram airbase last week, marking the end of the American presence in the sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.
How did the Afghan soldiers react?
Some Afghan soldiers told CNN that they learned that the Americans were leaving that same day.
And Afghan officials who accompanied CNN on a Bagram tour on Monday confessed that only then were they gaining access to much of the base and solving what was left behind.
A senior officer said he was notified last Thursday that his forces had less than 24 hours to secure the perimeter of the base.
How will the US withdrawal affect Afghanistan?
But he said the discord was ingrained in Afghanistan in ways impossible for the United States to resolve.
“No nation has unified Afghanistan, no nation. Empires have gone there and they haven’t,” he said.
Now, he said, the United States must move on.
“The United States cannot afford to remain tied to policies that create a response to a world like it was 20 years ago. We need to face the threats where they are today,” he said.
He spoke directly to the thousands of Afghans who helped the United States during the war and who are now awaiting their visa applications, promising to allow them to come to the United States.
“Our message to these men and women is clear: there is a home for you in the United States, if you choose, and we will stand by your side, as you were with us,” Biden said.
The visa process has been slow for those seeking to leave Afghanistan, including translators and other workers, prompting officials to develop plans to relocate them to a third country.
Aides to the president have said that the relocation of those waiting for visas will end before the reduction is completed at the end of August, without specifying how many people plan to move or confirming where they will go while they wait.
An administration official told CNN that the first flights for the interpreters could begin in two weeks.
Other major decisions have yet to be made, such as whether the United States will use drones in the future to target suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and how it will protect Kabul’s civilian airport.
And before speaking on Thursday, his press secretary said that ending America’s longest war was not a time for celebration.
“We are not going to have a ‘mission accomplished’ moment in this regard,” said Jen Psaki.
“It is a 20-year war that has not been won militarily.”