US President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that a complete US withdrawal of US service members from Afghanistan will conclude on August 31, less than two weeks before the 9/11 deadline that had been initially proposed by the administration.
Offering the nation an update on the US' withdrawal procedures, Biden informed the public that the US military has "achieved" its goals in Afghanistan, underscoring that the continued US support for the people of the Middle Eastern country will "endure."
"The United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and get Osama bin Laden," Biden remarked. "We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build."
"We're ending America's longest war," he emphasized, further adding that he has no intentions to "send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation to achieve a different outcome. The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies created in response to a world as it was 20 years ago."
Directly addressing officials who opposed troop withdrawal efforts, Biden acknowledged that prolonging the US' stay in Afghanistan would more than likely lead to an increase in attacks against American troops. However, he also stated that no US forces have been lost during the ongoing withdrawal procedures.
'Highly Unlikely' Taliban Forces Will Grab Ahold of Nation
Asked about the future government of Afghanistan, Biden stressed to reporters that it's "highly unlikely" that the Taliban would be overrunning the nation, even if the militant force appears to be "at its strongest" point since 2001.
He later stated that it's ultimately up to the Afghan people to determine "what government they want" as no outside nation has ever unified Afghanistan.
“It’s up to the Afghans to make decisions about the future of their country,” he said.
The president, seemingly appearing frustrated with reporters' questions, reiterated that while he "does not trust the Taliban," he does "trust the capacity of the Afghan military" as forces are "more competent in terms of conducting war" if need be. Biden's statement came just as reports detailed that Taliban forces had seized a third key border crossing along the nation's borders with Iran.
Over the near 20-year stay in Afghanistan, US forces trained and equipped some 300,000 Afghan forces. “They clearly have the capacity to keep the government in place, the question is will they come together, and will they do it,” Biden remarked.
Recent reports have suggested that the US intelligence community assessed the current Afghan government could collapse once the US officially withdraws from Afghanistan. Biden addressed the claims during the Thursday event, telling reporters that the assessment is "not true," and that the Afghan "government clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place.”
US Not Abandoning Afghanistan
Biden also took the opportunity to declare that the withdrawal does necessarily indicate that US is abandoning Afghanistan, and will in fact continue to provide humanitarian and security assistance.
"We provided advanced weaponry and we're going to continue to provide funding and equipment [to Afghanistan]," the president said. "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 are 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,” Biden added.
The US leader further noted that facilities where Afghan interpreters and allies can temporarily occupy have been identified in Afghanistan while they await the approval of special visas that will allow them to relocate outside of the country.
“The operation has identified US facilities outside the continental US as well as in third countries to host our Afghan allies if they so choose. And starting this month, we’re going to begin relocation flights for Afghanistan SIV applicants and their families who choose to leave,” Biden said after urging Afghan allies that "there is a home for you in the United States."
Biden's Thursday commentary came days after US military forces quietly departed from Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield, which at its peak hosted more than 100,000 US soldiers.
Earlier this week, Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander, told the Associated Press that Afghan military officials were not initially aware that US troops had left the facility, learning of the development more than two hours after their departure.
The base was considered the largest US installation in Afghanistan.