Biden defends departure from ‘eternal war’, praises the air bridge

WASHINGTON (AP) – Defensive President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on the U.S. airlift to pull more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and other allies from Afghanistan to end a 20-year war to an “extraordinary success,” though more than 100 Americans and thousands of others were left behind.

Twenty-four hours after the last U.S. C-17 cargo plane roared from Kabul, Biden spoke to the nation and energetically defended his decision to end America’s longest war and withdraw all U.S. troops before a August 31 deadline.

“I would not prolong this war forever,” Biden of the White House declared. “And I did not intend to prolong an eternal exit.”

Biden has faced difficult questions about the way the United States went about leaving Afghanistan – a chaotic evacuation with violent spasms, including a suicide bombing last week that killed 13 U.S. officials and 169 Afghans.

He is under harsh criticism, especially from Republicans, for his handling of the evacuation. But he said it was inevitable that the final departure from a two-decade war, first negotiated with the Taliban until May 1 by former President Donald Trump, would have been difficult, with likely violence, no matter when it was planned and implemented.

“To those who are asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, ‘What is the vital national interest?'” Biden said. He added: “I simply do not believe that security and security in America will be improved by continuing to deploy thousands of US troops and spend billions of dollars in Afghanistan.”

Asked after the speech that Biden sounded angry over some criticism, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president had simply offered his “strong assessment”.

Biden mocked Republicans – and some Democrats – who claimed the United States would have been better served by maintaining a small military footprint in Afghanistan. Prior to Thursday’s attack, the U.S. military had not suffered a combat casualty since February 2020 – around the time the Trump administration negotiated its agreement with the Taliban to end the war in May this year.

Biden said breaches of the Trump deal would have restarted a gunfight. He said those in favor of staying at war also do not recognize the importance of deployment, with a scourge of PTSD, economic struggles, divorce and other problems for U.S. troops.

“When I hear that we could have, should have continued the so-called low-quality effort in Afghanistan with low risk for our service members, at low cost, I do not think enough people understand how much we have asked for of the 1% of this land to put on that uniform, “said Biden.

In addition to all the questions at home, Biden is also adapting to a new relationship with the Taliban, the Islamist militant group that the United States overthrew after the September 11, 2001 attacks in America, and which is now back in power in Afghanistan. .

Biden has given Foreign Minister Antony Blinken the task of coordinating with international partners to keep the Taliban on their promise of safe passage for Americans and others who want to travel in the coming days.

“We take them not on their words alone, but on their actions,” Biden said. “We have the leverage to ensure that these commitments are met.”

Biden also pushed back against criticism that he did not fulfill his promise to get all Americans out of the country prior to the withdrawal of the U.S. military. He said many of the surviving Americans are dual nationals, some with deep family roots that complicate their ability to leave Afghanistan.

“The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” Biden said. “For the remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to getting them out if they want to get out.”

Biden reiterated his argument that the end of the Afghanistan war was a crucial step in recalibrating US foreign policy against growing challenges from China and Russia – and counter-terrorism, which poses a more potent threat to the United States.

“There is nothing that China or Russia would rather have, want more in this competition than for the United States to be stuck for another decade in Afghanistan,” he said.

In Biden’s view, the war could have ended 10 years ago with the US assassination of Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaeda extremist network planned and executed the 9/11 conspiracy from a shrine in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has been drastically reduced, preventing it from attacking the United States again so far. The president lamented an estimated $ 2 trillion in taxpayer money spent on fighting the war.

“What have we lost as a result of opportunities?” asked Biden.

Congressional committees whose interest in the war waned over the years are expected to hold public hearings on what went wrong in the final months of the U.S. withdrawal.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., On Tuesday described the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation as “probably the biggest failure of the U.S. government on a military stage in my lifetime” and promised Republicans would push the White House for answers.

Meanwhile, the Senate met briefly Tuesday, with Vice President Kamala Harris chairing the chamber, to unanimously pass a bill that would increase the cost of temporary assistance to U.S. citizens and their relatives returning from another country due to illness. war or other crisis. Biden quickly signed the legislation, which raises funding for the program from $ 1 million to $ 10 million.

A group of Republican lawmakers gathered on the floor of the house Tuesday morning and attended for a moment of silence for the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing.

They also sought a vote in Parliament on legislation by the rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Who would, among other things, require the administration to submit a report on how many Americans are left in Afghanistan, as well as the number of Afghans who had applied for a category of visas reserved for those employed by or on behalf of the United States Government.

GOP lawmakers objected when rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Adjourned Parliament. They then gathered for a press conference to condemn the administration.

For many U.S. commanders and troops serving in Afghanistan, it was a day of mixed feelings.

“We are all in conflict with feelings of pain and anger, sadness and sadness, combined with pride and resilience,” said General Mark Milley, President of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He commanded troops in Afghanistan earlier in his career. “But one thing I am sure of, for any soldier, sailor, aviator or Marine and their families, your service meant something. It was not in vain.”

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor contributed reporting.

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