The U.S. war in Afghanistan will officially be over by the end of August, President Joe Biden announced in remarks delivered Thursday. The president gave an update on the status of U.S. troop withdrawal, which is proceeding ahead of schedule.
"Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on Aug. 31. The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our troops as they depart," Biden said.
Last April, Biden pledged to withdraw the remaining 3,500 troops from the war-torn nation, bringing an end to a 20-year-old military conflict.
"As I said in April, the United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan — to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States. We achieved those objectives. That's why we went," Biden said.
"We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build," he added. "And it's the right and the responsibility of Afghan people, alone, to decide their future and how they want to run their country."
The president said that U.S. forces have trained and equipped 300,000 Afghan soldiers to maintain control of the country after American troops have withdrawn and emphasized that the federal government will continue to provide funding for the Afghan military to maintain its air force.
Biden made clear that he will resist calls for continued military intervention in Afghanistan despite the gains Taliban fighters have made as the U.S. exited the region. In just the last week, the radical Islamic terrorist group has taken control of 10% of the country, according to the Foundation fo Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit group that is monitoring the conflict in the Middle East. The foundation's analysis found that the Afghan government only controls 20% of the country, with the rest disputed.
Earlier this week, NBC News reported that the Taliban had seized containers full of weapons and military hardware from the Afghan military after U.S. forces left. The weapons were taken from the Sultan Khil military base in a province near Kabul and included 900 guns, 30 light tactical vehicles and 20 army pickup trucks. Reports indicate that some Afghan military posts have surrendered to advancing Taliban forces without putting up a fight.
Republicans have hammered Biden for leaving Afghanistan prematurely.
"It is not in America's interest for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan. If the Taliban takes over part of Afghanistan, I fear that al Qaeda and ISIS will reemerge, and we will be paving a way for another 9/11," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Tuesday.
Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized Biden's plans for withdrawal as "reckless" and "hasty," warning that "the threats we face from terrorism and tyranny have not been defeated."
But Biden said 20 years of experience fighting in Afghanistan has demonstrated that continued U.S. military presence there for another year or even for six more months is unlikely to improve the situation.
"How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?" Biden asked, addressing his critics. "I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome."
As the United States completes its military withdrawal, Biden committed to evacuating thousands of Afghan translators and their families who assisted the U.S., promising to expedite their emigration to the United States. He also said the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian support for Afghanistan, including defending the rights of women and girls.