U.S.A – (WARSOOR) – U.S. President Joe Biden is set to address the nation Tuesday following the withdrawal of the last American troops from Afghanistan and the end of a two-decade war that leaves the Taliban in power.
Biden said in a brief statement Monday that he would specifically speak about his decision not to extend the U.S. troop presence in Kabul beyond the August 31 deadline he set.
For weeks, Biden and other members of his administration discussed the possibility of staying longer, balancing the challenges and benefits of a massive operation to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan civilians against credible security threats.
“It was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned,” Biden said. “Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.”
“The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments,” he added.
Biden’s decision to stick to the withdrawal deadline drew criticism from political opponents, and from some allies. The U.S. exit comes days before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that prompted the United States to send troops into Afghanistan to go after the al-Qaida terrorists who planned the attacks and the Taliban militants who harbored them.
The head of U.S. Central Command announced the end of the U.S. mission to Afghanistan during a news conference Monday at the Pentagon, telling reporters the last U.S. aircraft took off in Kabul just before midnight local time.
“The last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,” General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie said via a video link from CENTCOM headquarters in Florida, calling it the end of the evacuation and of the nearly two-decade-long U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
“It’s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, along with many of his al-Qaida co-conspirators,” McKenzie said, noting the cost to the U.S. was high.
“Two thousand four hundred sixty-one U.S. service members and civilians killed, and more than 20,000 who were injured,” he said, praising the hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians who fought and worked in Afghanistan.
“No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment,” McKenzie said, adding that even the final departure was bittersweet.
“We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he told reporters, of the 18-day effort described as the largest airlift in U.S. military history.
In the end, McKenzie said, the U.S. evacuated more than 79,000 civilians through the airport in Kabul, which includes 6,000 Americans and about 73,000 Afghans and third-country nationals.
In all, officials said, the U.S. and its coalition partners helped more than 123,000 civilians flee Afghanistan, though countless more were left behind.
The White House said the president planned to address the nation Tuesday about the end of America’s longest war. In a statement released late Monday, Biden defended his decision to stick with the August 31 deadline despite mounting criticism from political opponents, and even from some allies.
This post is also available in: Somali