United States President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC on July 8, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said the US military mission in Afghanistan would end by August 31, and urged the country’s leaders to “come together” to prevent civil war.
“We didn’t go to Afghanistan to build a nation,” Biden said in a statement in the White House on Thursday.
After 20 years of war, the ideal conditions that the USA once hoped for before the troops withdrew were not there.
“How many more, how many thousands of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” said Biden, who first announced the planned withdrawal of US forces in April. “How long should you stay?”
“It is up to the Afghans to decide the future of their country,” said the president.
In April, the White House confirmed that US forces had initiated the Herculean process of withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it had completed more than 90% of the effort.
The update from US Central Command, which oversees America’s military presence from northeast Africa to South Asia, came about two months ahead of the deadline Biden set earlier this year.
The removal of approximately 3,000 US soldiers coincides with the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that spurred America’s entry into protracted wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The flight crew assigned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, carry their equipment into a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina on April 27, 2021.
Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner | U.S. Air Force photo
Biden told reporters he was confident the Afghan military can hold the country ahead of the advancing Taliban, citing the 300,000 Afghan troops the US has trained and equipped over the past two decades.
“They clearly have the ability to keep the government in place, the question is whether they will come together and do it,” he said, referring to the Afghan leadership.
At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby said the US was closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. He said the Taliban had confiscated dozen of district centers and threatened provincial centers as well.
“We are aware of the security situation and the advance of the Taliban, and that is why it is so important for us to push for a negotiated political solution to this war,” said Kirby.
The breathtaking advances made by the Taliban
Taliban fighters with a vehicle on a highway in Afghanistan.
Saibal Das | The India Today Group | Getty Images
The ongoing US and NATO military retreat has raised serious concerns that Afghanistan may fall into further bloodshed.
The country’s supreme American general, Scott Miller, has warned that if the Taliban increase their influence, civil war could ensue.
In recent weeks, the Taliban have made breathtaking forays into the battlefield, capturing stocks of US military-provided weapons and vehicles from Afghan forces that have either fled or surrendered.
“The Taliban are the strongest militarily since 2001,” said Biden.
While Biden rejected the idea that a Taliban takeover was inevitable, he conceded that Afghanistan is unlikely to be ruled by a central government in the near future.
An Afghan National Army soldier guards the gate of the U.S. Bagram Air Force Base on the day the last American troops evacuated it, Parwan province, Afghanistan, July 2, 2021.
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Last week, the US military quietly left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a historic milestone after Biden’s order to withdraw US forces from the country.
In 2012, at its peak, Bagram looked through more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers. It was the largest US military facility in Afghanistan.
The Afghan district administrator of Bagram told The Associated Press that the US exit was overnight and without consultation with local officials. As a result, dozens of looters stormed through the unprotected gates.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid described the US withdrawal from Bagram as “a positive step” and told NBC News that the Taliban had no plans “for the time being” to occupy the sprawling air force base, which is about 60 kilometers north of Kabul.
American forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 after the group sheltered Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two years later, US troops invaded Iraq to defeat then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. to eliminate .
Twenty years later, America’s longest war has killed around 2,300 US soldiers and wounded thousands more. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded since the conflict began.
US humanitarian engagement
A US Marine stands guard outside the US embassy December 21, 2001 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Paula Bronstein | Getty Images
Marked by centuries of foreign invasions and ravaged by ethnic divisions, Afghan civilians still elude things like basic security, human rights and good governance to this day.
On Thursday, Biden insisted America remains committed to creating a stable and secure Afghanistan, referring to the humanitarian and security assistance the US administration will continue to provide.
Nonetheless, it had become clear to US defense officials and diplomats in recent years that the main argument for keeping troops in Afghanistan – that the Afghan central government needs US troops on the ground to secure and maintain a diplomatic truce with the Taliban – was not true result in a viable long-term plan.
“We’ve given that argument a decade,” Biden said in April. “It has never been effective – not when we had 98,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and not when we only had a few thousand.”
“Instead of going back to war with the Taliban, we need to focus on the challenges that lie ahead,” said Biden. “We need to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that have spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11.”