Kabul: In a formal announcement, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday, that he will withdraw all the remaining US troops from Afghanistan to mark the end of a “forever war”, rejecting calls for the US forces to stay to ensure a peaceful resolution to that nation’s grinding internal conflict. Biden’s plan includes pulling out all American forces – numbering 2,500 – by this September 11 starting May 1, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which were coordinated from Afghanistan.
“The US cannot continue to pour resources into an intractable war and expect different results. It is time to end America’s longest war”, Biden said, but he added that the US will “not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.” “It was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking. We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” Biden said, noting that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in 2011 and saying that organization has been “degraded” in Afghanistan.
The war has cost the lives of 2,448 American service personnel and cost an estimated $2 trillion. When Biden took office, he faced a May 1 deadline of withdrawal of forces, which was set up the Trump administration. However, he had rejected the idea saying that it will be “logistically” impossible.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” said Biden, who delivered his address from the White House Treaty Room, the same location where President George W Bush announced the start of the war 20 years ago. “I am now the fourth United States President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Soon after Biden’s announcement, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) chief Jens Stoltenberg also said that NATO will withdraw its 7,000 forces from Afghanistan.
Withdrawing all US troops comes with clear risks. It could boost the Taliban’s effort to claw back power and undo gains toward democracy and women’s rights made over the past two decades. “This administration has decided to abandon US efforts in Afghanistan which have helped keep radical Islamic terrorism in check,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “And bizarrely, they have decided to do so by September 11th.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani posted on Twitter that he had spoken with President Biden about the recent US decision. “As we move towards the next phase of our partnership, we will continue to work with US and NATO partners on ongoing peace efforts,” the president wrote. “The proud Afghan security and defense forces are fully capable of defending their people and their country, what they have done all along, and the People of Afghanistan will forever be grateful to them,” he said.
The announcement comes even as a conference is scheduled on the Afghanistan peace roadmap starting on April 24 in Istanbul that would include the United Nations and Qatar. The Afghan government is ready with a unified plan, however, the Taliban has rejected coming to the negotiating table till all foreign troops have not been withdrawn from the country.
US President Joe Biden has also said India, Pakistan, Russia, China, and Turkey have a significant stake in the stable future of Afghanistan and these regional stakeholders should do more to bring peace in this war-torn country. “We will ask other countries in the region to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey. They all have a significant stake in the stable future of Afghanistan,” Biden said.