President Joe Biden upheld his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by August 31, saying his decision to do so saved lives.
“I wasn’t going to prolong this war forever, and I wasn’t going to extend an outing forever,” Biden said in a White House speech Tuesday.
On Monday, the United States finally withdrew the last of its troops from Kabul, officially ending the 20-year war between the United States and Afghanistan. Since August 14, the United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 124,000 people, including approximately 5,500 Americans.
Between 100 and 200 Americans who may still want to leave remain in Afghanistan, raising concerns that the president has pushed back the deadline to ensure those Americans can get to Kabul international airport.
But the president pointed out that the Trump administration’s deal last year with the Taliban – which had taken control of Afghanistan amid the country’s rapid government collapse – required Biden to meet a deadline beforehand. set in order to protect US forces from Taliban attacks.
“The departure on August 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives, ”he said. “It was the choice, the real choice, between leaving or stepping up.”
Biden said his administration had contacted Americans in Afghanistan 19 times since March, with multiple warnings and evacuation offers. Some Americans made the decision earlier to stay and then wanted to evacuate, according to the president.
Echoing the Pentagon and State Department announcements yesterday, Biden said the United States will now assume the diplomatic mission of continuing to drive out the remaining Americans who wish to leave Afghanistan. The US Embassy in Kabul will remain vacant while diplomats assigned to Afghanistan will work from Doha, Qatar.
“Now some say we should have started the mass evacuations earlier, and couldn’t it have been done in a more orderly fashion?” Biden said. “I disagree with respect.”
“Imagine if we started the evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating over 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war,” he continued. “There would always have been a rush to the airport, a loss of government confidence and control – and it would always have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.”
This is a developing story. Please check for updates.
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