President Joe Biden announced Thursday the end date for the nearly 20-year-long war in Afghanistan is Aug. 31. The video above includes parts of President Biden’s announcement, as well as his post-announcement Q&A with reporters.
While this is another step towards actually leaving the country, the president said it is not a “mission accomplished” moment.
“The mission was accomplished in that we got Osama bin Laden and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world,” Biden said.
The decision comes as the Taliban continues to make rapid advances in large parts of the country. Biden said it would be unacceptable if Kabul fell to the Taliban. However, he also said that scenario isn’t inevitable as of now.
“Do I trust the Taliban? No,” Biden said. “But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden administration officials always anticipated an uptick in violence as the United States withdrawal moved forward. She said prolonging U.S. military involvement would have led to an escalation of attacks on American troops.
The Biden administration has looked to frame the conflict as an “unwinnable war” that “does not have a military solution.”
Biden said it was “highly unlikely” one government will control Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout. He urged the Afghan government to reach a deal with the Taliban.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” Biden said in a speech. “Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future.”
To those calling for the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan, Biden said, “How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?”
He added, “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
U.S. forces vacated Bagram Airfield earlier this week. Remaining U.S. troops are now concentrated in Kabul. The Pentagon said the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, is expected to end his tour of duty later this month.
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “When I made the decision to end the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, I judged that it was not in the national interest of the United States of America to continue fighting this war indefinitely. I made the decision with clear eyes and I’m briefed daily on the battlefield updates. But for those who have argued that we should stay just six more months or just one more year, I asked them to consider the lessons of recent history. In 2011, the NATO allies and partners agreed that we would end our combat mission in 2014. In 2014, some argued one more year. So we kept fighting, we kept taking casualties. In 2015 the same. And on and on. Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely. It’s up to the Afghans to make the decision about the future of their country. In our meeting, I also assured (Afghan President Ashraf) Ghani that U.S. support for the people of Afghanistan will endure. We will continue to provide civilian and humanitarian assistance, including speaking out for the rights of women and girls. I intend to maintain our diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, and we’re coordinating closely with our international partners in order to continue to secure the international airport. And we’re going to engage in a determined diplomacy to pursue peace and a peace agreement that will end this senseless violence. So let me ask those who want us to stay, how many more, how many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well? Would you send your own son or daughter? After 20 years, a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan security and defense forces, 2448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health. I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
Reporter asking question: “Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “No, it is not because you have the Afghan troops have 300,000 well equipped, as well equipped as any army in the world and an air force, against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.”
Reporter asking question: “Do you trust the Taliban? (Biden: Is that a serious question?) It’s absolutely a serious question.”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “It’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No, but I trust the capacity of the Afghan military who is better trained, better equipped and more more competent in terms of conducting war.”
Reporter asking question: “In your view with making this decision for the last 20 years worth it?”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “We went for two reasons: One, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time. The second reason was to eliminate al Qaida’s capacity to deal with more attacks in the United States from that territory. We accomplished both of those objectives. Period. That’s what I believed from the beginning, why we should be and why we should have gone to Afghanistan. That job had been over for some time. That’s why I believe that this is the right decision and quite frankly, overdue.”
Reporter asking question: “What is the level of confidence that they have that it (Kabul) will not collapse?”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “The Afghan government, leadership has to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place. The question is, will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it? It’s not a question of whether they have the capacity, they have the capacity. They have the forces. They have the equipment. The question is, will they do it? I want to make clear, like I made clear to Ghani that we are not going to walk away and not sustain their ability to maintain that force. We are. We’re going to also work to make sure we help them in terms of everything from food necessities and other things in the region. But, how but there is not a conclusion that, in fact, they cannot defeat the Taliban. I believe the only way there’s going to be … this is now Joe Biden, not the intelligence community. The only way there’s only going to be peace and security in Afghanistan is that they work out a modus vivendi with the Taliban and they make a judgment as to how they can make peace and the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.”
Reporter asking question: “Do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam with some people feeling …”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “None whatsoever, zero. What you had is you had entire brigades breaking through the gates of our embassy, six, if I’m not mistaken. The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army, they’re not and they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance for you to see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the, of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”
Reporter asking question: “Will the United States to be responsible for the loss of Afghan civilian lives that could happen after the military exit?”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “No, no, no. It’s up to the people of Afghanistan to decide on what government they want, not us to impose the government on them. No country has ever been able to do that. Keep in mind, as a student of history, as I’m sure you are, never has Afghanistan been a united country, not in all of its history, not in all of its history.
Reporter: “If this isn’t a mission accomplished moment. What is it?”
Biden: “No, there is no mission accomplished. The mission was accomplished in that we got us got Osama bin Laden. And terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world.”