President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he will begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan on May 1 to end America’s longest war.
“It’s time to end the forever war,” Biden declared in a White House speech.
He rejected calls for U.S. forces to stay to ensure a peaceful resolution to that nation’s grinding internal conflict.
Biden acknowledged that U.S. objectives in Afghanistan had become “increasingly unclear” over the past decade.
He set a deadline for withdrawing all 2,500 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, exactly 20 years after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States that triggered the war.
(Watch Biden’s declaration:
I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan.
I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth. pic.twitter.com/OpZK1Na5KP
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 14, 2021
But by pulling out without a clear victory, the United States opens itself to criticism that a withdrawal represents a de facto admission of failure for American military strategy.
“It was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking. We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” Biden said.
He noted that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in 2011, adding that the organization has been “degraded” in Afghanistan.
The war has cost the lives of 2,448 American service members and consumed an estimated $2 trillion. U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan peaked at more than 100,000 in 2011.
The Democratic president had faced a May 1 withdrawal deadline, set by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who tried but failed to pull the troops out before leaving office in January. Instead, Biden said the final withdrawal would start on May 1 and end by Sept. 11.
In withdrawing, Biden is embracing risks at the start of his presidency that proved too great for his predecessors, including that al Qaeda might reconstitute itself or that the Taliban insurgency might topple the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.