US President Joe Biden has announced the end of America’s 20-year-old military presence in Afghanistan, hours after the United States withdrew all of its soldiers from the war-ravaged country. “Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” he said, thanking armed forces for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled -- in the early hours of Tuesday (August 31) – with no further loss of American lives."
Biden said he will address the nation on Tuesday. “For now, I will report that 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. 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 president said he has asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with US international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.
This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel, he added.
“The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” Biden said.
He urged all Americans to join him in “grateful prayer for three things”.
“First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible”.
“Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuations, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States.”
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden stands by his decision to bring troops home from Afghanistan.
“Because if he had not, his view and the view of many experts in the military out there is we would have sent tens of thousands, potentially -- or thousands, at least -- more troops back into harm’s way, risking more lives and more people to fight a war the Afghans were not willing to fight themselves. Nothing has changed in that regard,” she said.
“Our current plan is not to have an ongoing presence in Afghanistan as of September 1st, but we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground, being able to continue to process out those applicants and facilitate passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan. We will have more details for that, I expect, in the coming days,” she added.
Under 200 Americans in Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said fewer than 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan who want to leave and the US will continue to try to get them out. Blinken says the number of Americans left may be closer to 100. He says the US would work with Afghanistan's neighbors to secure their departure either overland or by charter flight once the Kabul airport re-opens.
Speaking shortly after the Pentagon announced the completion of the US military pullout Monday, Blinken said the US Embassy in Kabul will remain shuttered and vacant for the foreseeable future.
He says American diplomats who had worked from the now-closed embassy will be based in Doha, Qatar.