US President Joe Biden on Wednesday drafted his plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan because of the reason they were sent there in the first place: the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
“It’s time to end America’s longest war,” Biden said in a speech to the White House House of Representatives.
“We are going to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that took place 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should stay there in 2021.”
“I am now the fourth American president to lead a US army presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. “I will not transfer this responsibility to a fifth,” he said.
The US cannot ‘continue to expand or expand the military presence in Afghanistan in the hope of creating the ideal conditions for withdrawal, with the expectation of a different outcome.
Biden has set September 11 as the date on which the remaining 2,500 US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan, effectively ending what many called America’s “eternal war,” which claimed more than 2,400 US lives and as much as $1 trillion in costs.
More than 38,500 Afghan civilians have died, and at least 72,300 have been injured since 2009 – the first year the United Nations has begun counting Afghan civilian casualties. While the number of Afghan military deaths has been classified or protected, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at least 48,000 Afghan security personnel were killed between 2014 and 2020.
The withdrawal process from US troops will begin on May 1, Biden said.
NATO troops will also leave Afghanistan from May 1, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. There are about 7,000 non-US NATO forces that rely on US support and leadership.
“Our essay will be orderly, coordinated and purposeful,” Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
”I think all allies are aware that this is not an easy decision, and it is a decision that involves risks, and also a decision that really requires us to stay focused on Afghanistan, in part to make sure that the withdrawal is taking place in a safe and secure and orderly manner, that we are sending a very clear message to the Taliban as – that if they attack us, we will retaliate and respond in a very powerful way.”
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, interrupted by Osama bin Laden, then-US President George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan in October 2001 after the Taliban reportedly housed bin Laden and refused to surrender him.
The Taliban were soon ousted by US forces, and bin Laden was finally found and killed in neighbouring Pakistan in 2011.
Biden faces a May 1 deadline agreed by the Taliban and the previous Donald Trump administration, a date on which Biden has indicated he will not comply.
The Taliban threatened ‘problems’ if the US did not meet the deadline; Biden hopes a new deadline with an explanation will rest it.
Based on the Taliban’s initial response, it does not appear to have worked.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is seeking the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“If the agreement is broken and foreign forces do not leave the country on the specified date, problems will definitely be exacerbated and those who have not complied with the agreement will be held accountable,” Mujahid continued.