WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a fiery address to the American people, President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan and end the 20-year war there. He also called the mission to evacuate U.S. forces and allies from the country an “extraordinary success.”
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit. The decision to end the military lift operation at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers,” said Biden.
Biden argued that staying in Afghanistan wasn’t in the vital national interest of the U.S.
“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,” said Biden. “But I also know that the threat of terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature. But it has 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.”
Watch Biden's remarks below:
Biden delivered the remarks from the White House Tuesday, a day after a final plane of troops departed the Middle Eastern country after several weeks of chaotic evacuation efforts.
That final plane departed Kabul just hours before the Aug. 31 self-imposed deadline set by the White House to get all American citizens and military members out of the country.
While Biden had promised to evacuate all U.S. citizens who hoped to leave by Aug. 31, Sec. of State Antony Blinken confirmed Monday that a handful of Americans remain in Afghanistan. In remarks on Monday, he said the U.S. would continue diplomatic efforts to get about 200 citizens out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
"We will help them leave," Blinken said.
Biden reiterated that promise in his remarks Tuesday, saying “there is no deadline for the remaining Americans who want to leave Afghanistan. He said the U.S. remains committed to getting them out if they want to leave.
“Sec. of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan,” said Biden.
Evacuation efforts from Afghanistan began in July after Biden extended the U.S. deadline for evacuations from May until September earlier this year. However, those plans devolved into chaos in mid-August, when the U.S.-backed Afghan government was toppled by rapidly advancing Taliban fighters.
With the Taliban in control of the county, thousands of Afghan and American citizens rushed to the airport in Kabul in an effort to flee vengeful and totalitarian Taliban rule. For weeks, large crowds surrounded the gates of the airport, seeking a way out of the country.
The U.S. says approximately 123,000 people, including about 6,000 Americans, were evacuated throughout the process.
Those large crowds near the airport proved to be a soft target for terror attacks from the Islamic State group. A suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. troops and more than 100 Afghans last Thursday, and White House officials maintained that troops could have been subjected to further danger from attacks had they have decided to remain in the country past Aug. 31.
The U.S. went to war following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, going after Osama Bin Laden. He was killed in Pakistan in 2011. However, the war in Afghanistan continued for 10 more years, resulting in the deaths of 2,500 service members and about 50,000 Afghan civilians.
“My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over,” said Biden toward the end of his remarks.
Biden added the U.S. must learn from its mistakes and 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,” said Biden. “This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”