“We are ending America’s longest war,” President Biden said on Thursday as he announced the US military mission in Afghanistan would end on August 31.
“The U.S. did what we went to do in Afghanistan,” Biden said in a press conference in the White House’s East Room. He cited killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the supposed degradation of terrorist groups in the country and preventing it from becoming a safe haven to plan attacks against the U.S.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country,” Biden said.
The Defense Department confirmed earlier this week that it had completed 90 percent of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, including shuttering its largest airbase and logistics hub at Bagram earlier this week.
The remainder of U.S. forces on the ground there are now limited to the U.S. Embassy compound and the airport in Kabul – the country’s last reliable lifeline to the outside world.
Biden’s remarks also come amid a persistent onslaught of Taliban forces, which have consistently captured former U.S. bases and equipment with little to no resistance from the U.S.-backed Afghan military.
The president acknowledged the insurgent network’s growing influence, saying on Thursday that “the Taliban is at its strongest militarily since 2001.”
Biden – long a critic of an enduring presence in Afghanistan going back to his tenure as vice president and a senator – pushed back on those saying the U.S. needs more time to better prepare circumstances on the ground to allow the government in Kabul to succeed.
“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden said.
Biden pledged to continue supporting the Afghan government and security forces and said thousands of Afghan translators who worked for US forces and face threats from the Taliban would be able to find refuge in the United States.
“There is a home for you in the United States, if you choose,” he said. “We will stand with you, just as you stood with us.