Biden Forcefully Defends Ending Two-Decade US War in Afghanistan
September 1, 2021
President Joe Biden on Tuesday forcefully defended his decision to
end the country's two-decade war in Afghanistan that leaves Taliban
insurgents in power, just as they were in 2001.
"We no longer need to fight a war that should have ended long ago,"
Biden said in a half-hour address from the White House. "I refuse to
open another decade of war in Afghanistan."
He cited the high cost of the conflict to the United States — 2,461
service members killed, another 20,744 injured and $300 million a
day in expenditures. But he said it is time to focus on new threats
from around the world, whether from other terrorists in Africa and
the Middle East, economic threats from China, or cyberattacks from
The Afghan conflict was initiated in late 2001 by former President
George W. Bush, who invaded Afghanistan to overrun training grounds
for al-Qaida terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001,
killing nearly 3,000 people.
Biden said that after he took office in January, he faced the
decision whether to honor the pact agreed to by former President
Donald Trump to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by last May, a
deadline Biden ultimately extended by five months.
"The choice was leaving or escalating this war," Biden said. But he
said Afghanistan can be monitored from outside its borders to "make
sure it can never again be used" as a base for an attack on the U.S.
Two Republican critics of Biden attacked his performance in ending
the Afghan conflict.
"President Biden's unseemly victory lap was detached from reality,"
Senator Ben Sasse said. "His callous indifference to the Americans
he abandoned behind enemy lines is shameful."
Senator Kevin Cramer declared, "President Biden's withdrawal was a
complete failure. His actions are unfitting for the office he holds
and are embarrassing our country on the world stage."
Biden said he takes responsibility for the chaotic, deadly end to
the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, in which 13 service members
were killed last week in a suicide bomb attack by an ISIS-Khorasan
But Biden vowed again, "To those who wish America harm, we will hunt
you down … and make you pay."
The U.S. says it has already killed an insurgent who planned the
Biden acknowledged that 100 to 200 Americans who wanted to be
evacuated from Kabul remain in Afghanistan, but he said 90% of
Americans who wanted to leave had been evacuated on military flights
over the last 17 days — about 5,500 people in all.
said the U.S. and other countries around the world would insist that
the Taliban live up to its promise to allow the remaining Americans
to leave if they want, along with Afghans who supported the U.S. war
"We're far from done" in helping others be evacuated from
Afghanistan, he said.
For weeks, Biden and other members of his administration discussed
the possibility of staying longer than his self-imposed August 31
deadline, balancing the challenges and benefits of a massive
operation to evacuate more U.S. citizens and Afghan civilians
against credible security threats.
"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," Biden said Monday and reiterated in his White House
address. "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."