Washington, Aug 31 (EFE).- President Joe Biden said Tuesday that suggestions the United States could have prolonged its military presence in Afghanistan without additional cost or heightened risk betray a lack of understanding.
Addressing the nation from the White House following the final withdrawal of US forces, he said that by the time he took office in January, the Taliban was in “the strongest military position” since the it was toppled in the American invasion of Fall 2001.
Biden pointed to the accord predecessor Donald Trump signed with the Taliban in 2020, which called for US troops to leave on May 1, 2021.
In exchange for the promise to withdraw, the Taliban halted attacks on US and other NATO forces and the number of coalition personnel in Afghanistan underwent reductions in 2020, the president noted.
“We faced a deadline,” Biden said, adding that a repudiation of the Trump agreement would have caused the Taliban to renew hostilities against Western forces, so any attempt to extend the US presence would have required sending tens of thousands of additional troops.
“That was the real choice: between leaving or escalating,” the president said. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”
Biden did deviate from the accord, postponing the pullout deadline from May 1 until Sept. 11, the
He hailed the accomplishment of the US military in evacuating more than 120,000 people – 5,500 of them Americans – from Kabul airport over the course of 17 days as “double what most experts thought could be done.”
Amid claims some US citizens were left stranded in Afghanistan, he said that “90 percent of Americans who wanted to leave were able to leave.”
The number of US citizens still in Afghanistan “with some intention to leave” is between 100 and 200 and Washington will get them out “if they so choose,” Biden said.
Washington has “leverage” to make sure that the Taliban stands by its pledge to provide safe passage for US citizens and for Afghans wishing to leave, “including for those who worked alongside Americans,” the president said.
The US military personnel at Kabul airport “did their job and did it well risking their lives not for professional gain but to serve others,” he said, acknowledging the 13 service members who were killed last week in a suicide bombing at the airfield that also left more than 170 Afghan civilians dead.
“We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never ever repay,” Biden said of the US military dead.
“I made a commitment to end this war and today I honored that commitment,” the president said. “I refused to send another generation of American sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”
“This is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America,” he said. EFE