- Former President Barack Obama praised Biden for planning to end the US war in Afghanistan.
- Biden announced that he plans to withdraw all troops in Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.
- “It is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily,” Obama said.
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Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday praised President Joe Biden’s “bold leadership” in taking steps to end the US war in Afghanistan that has drawn out for nearly two decades and spanned multiple administrations.
Biden plans to withdraw all US forces currently deployed to Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, which will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan,” Biden said in Wednesday remarks in the White House Treaty Room announcing the move, vowing that he “will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
Biden said that “while we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue” to support Afghan security forces and people against the Taliban.
“It has been a long and arduous struggle in Afghanistan, rooted in our response to the deadliest terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland in our history,” Obama said, adding that troops and diplomatic workers “can take pride in their efforts to deliver justice for 9/11, destroy al Qaeda’s safe-haven, train Afghan Security Forces, and support the people of Afghanistan.”
The US’ invasion of Afghanistan, then called Operation Enduring Freedom, was launched in October 2001, just weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The aim was to destroy the Taliban-aligned terror group behind the attacks, al-Qaeda, and its leader Osama Bin Laden. US forces killed bin Laden in a 2011 strike during Obama’s first term in office, but his administration did not succeed in ending the US troop presence in the country.
In his 2020 memoir, “A Promised Land,” Obama wrote that “if arriving at a plan for Iraq was relatively straightforward finding a way out of Afghanistan was anything but,” adding that “unlike the war in Iraq, the Afghan campaign had always seemed to me a war of necessity.”
Obama recounted how, at the start of his presidency in 2009, he was asked to authorize a request from the International Security Assistance Force for a deployment of 30,000 American troops that was first raised under the Bush administration.
Out of all the top officials in his administration, Obama said that “only Joe Biden voiced his misgivings” about approving the added troop presence in a meeting in the Situation Room, saying that Biden “saw Afghanistan as a dangerous quagmire.”
At the end of the meeting, Obama said Biden told him: “Listen to me, boss. Maybe I’ve been around this town for too long, but one thing I know is when these generals are trying to box in a new president.”
“Don’t let them jam you,” he added.
Currently, the US has approximately 2,500 troops deployed to the country, in addition to troops from the US’ allies who belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In all, over 2,300 American service members have died in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
On Wednesday, NATO announced that they too plan to withdraw their allied forces from Afghanistan alongside the US.
“There will be very difficult challenges and further hardship ahead in Afghanistan, and the U.S. must remain engaged diplomatically and through our development efforts to support the Afghan people, particularly those who have taken extraordinary risks on behalf of human rights,” Obama said.
“But after nearly two decades of putting our troops in harm’s way,” he added, “it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily, and that it’s time to bring our remaining troops home.”