President Biden is expected to unveil his plan Wednesday for pulling all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan before this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, declaring in prepared remarks that it’s “time to end America’s longest war.”
In excerpts of the remarks released by the White House before his afternoon announcement, Biden notes that the “horrific” Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan motivated the U.S. to invade Afghanistan in October of that year in pursuit of late al Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden.
“That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” the president says in the speech excerpts.
Having consulted with U.S. military brass, intelligence officials and foreign allies, Biden will stake out specifics for a controlled withdrawal from Afghanistan over several months, with the last soldiers leaving no later than Sept. 11 of this year.
“It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home,” Biden is expected to say.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani voiced support for Biden’s phased withdrawal plan after speaking with him on the phone Wednesday morning.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the U.S. decision and we will work with out U.S. partners to ensure a smooth transition,” Ghani said in a statement.
President Biden (Amr Alfiky/)
Biden’s strategy flies in the face of former President Donald Trump’s promise to have all U.S. soldiers leave Afghanistan by May 1.
The Taliban, the extremist militia that provided a safe haven for bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks and has been fighting on and off with the U.S. since the 2001 invasion, threatened last year that it would renew attacks on American forces if they stayed past May 1.
It’s unclear how credible the Taliban threat is.
A senior Biden administration official said this week that Taliban leaders have been informed that the U.S. will “hit back hard” if they conduct any attacks on American troops during the phased-out withdrawal.
Some 3,000 U.S. soldiers still remain in Afghanistan. More than 2,300 U.S. service members have died in the still-ongoing war, which ranks as the longest-running in American history.
In his speech, Biden will note that many of his predecessors — including President Barack Obama — failed to make good on promises to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” he will say. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Foreign policy and military experts have long worried that a full U.S. withdrawal could create a vacuum allowing the Taliban to regain control of the country, especially as the Afghan government still relies on foreign support to operate.
But Biden is set to say in his speech that a U.S. military withdrawal doesn’t mean an end to American engagement in Afghanistan.
“While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue,” he says in the excerpts. “We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Along with our partners, we are training and equipping nearly 300,000 personnel. And they continue to fight valiantly on behalf of their country and defend the Afghan people, at great cost.”