- Aug. 16, 2021Updated 5:29 p.m. ET
The pursuing is simply a transcript of President Biden’s remarks connected Monday astir the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
I privation to talk contiguous to the unfolding concern successful Afghanistan, the developments that person taken spot successful the past week and the steps we’re taking to code the rapidly evolving events.
My nationalist information squad and I person been intimately monitoring the concern connected the crushed successful Afghanistan and moving rapidly to execute the plans we had enactment successful spot to respond to each contingency, including the accelerated illness we’re seeing now.
I’ll talk much successful a infinitesimal astir the circumstantial steps we’re taking. But I privation to punctual everyone however we got present and what America’s interests are successful Afghanistan.
We went to Afghanistan astir 20 years agone with wide goals: get those who attacked america connected Sept. 11, 2001, and marque definite Al Qaeda could not usage Afghanistan arsenic a basal from which to onslaught america again. We did that. We severely degraded Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. We ne'er gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and we got him.
That was a decennary ago. Our ngo successful Afghanistan was ne'er expected to person been nation-building. It was ne'er expected to beryllium creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our lone captious nationalist involvement successful Afghanistan remains contiguous what it has ever been: preventing a violent onslaught connected American homeland.
I’ve argued for galore years that our ngo should beryllium narrowly focused connected counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency oregon nation-building. That’s wherefore I opposed the surge erstwhile it was projected successful 2009 erstwhile I was vice president. And that’s wherefore arsenic president I’m adamant we absorption connected the threats we look today, successful 2021, not yesterday’s threats.
Today a violent menace has metastasized good beyond Afghanistan. Al Shabab successful Somalia, Al Qaeda successful the Arabian Peninsula, Al Nusra successful Syria, ISIS attempting to make a caliphate successful Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates successful aggregate countries successful Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attraction and our resources. We behaviour effectual counterterrorism missions against violent groups successful aggregate countries wherever we don’t person imperishable subject presence. If necessary, we’ll bash the aforesaid successful Afghanistan. We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capableness that volition let america to support our eyes firmly fixed connected the nonstop threats to the United States successful the region, and enactment rapidly and decisively if needed.
When I came into office, I inherited a woody that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would beryllium retired of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, conscionable a small implicit 3 months aft I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump medication from astir 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops successful country. And the Taliban was astatine its strongest militarily since 2001.
The prime I had to marque arsenic your president was either to travel done connected that statement oregon beryllium prepared to spell backmost to warring the Taliban successful the mediate of the outpouring warring season. There would person been nary cease-fire aft May 1. There was nary statement protecting our forces aft May 1. There was nary presumption quo of stableness without American casualties aft May 1. There was lone the acold world of either pursuing done connected the statement to retreat our forces oregon escalating the struggle and sending thousands much American troops backmost into combat successful Afghanistan, and lurching into the 3rd decennary of conflict.
I basal squarely down my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard mode that determination was ne'er a bully clip to retreat U.S. forces. That’s wherefore we’re inactive there. We were cleareyed astir the risks. We planned for each contingency. But I ever promised the American radical that I volition beryllium consecutive with you.
The information is, this did unfold much rapidly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan governmental leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan subject collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. subject engagement successful Afghanistan present was the close decision.
American troops cannot and should not beryllium warring successful a warfare and dying successful a warfare that Afghan forces are not consenting to combat for themselves. We spent implicit a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan subject unit of immoderate 300,000 strong. Incredibly good equipped. A unit larger successful size than the militaries of galore of our NATO allies. We gave them each instrumentality they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the attraction of their aerial force, thing the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not person an aerial force. We provided adjacent aerial support. We gave them each accidental to find their ain future. What we could not supply them was the volition to combat for that future.
There are immoderate precise brave and susceptible Afghan peculiar forces units and soldiers. But if Afghanistan is incapable to equine immoderate existent absorption to the Taliban now, determination is nary accidental that 1 twelvemonth — 1 much year, 5 much years oregon 20 much years — that U.S. subject boots connected the crushed would person made immoderate difference.
Here’s what I judge to my core: It is incorrect to bid American troops to measurement up erstwhile Afghanistan’s ain equipped forces would not. The governmental leaders of Afghanistan were incapable to travel unneurotic for the bully of their people, incapable to negociate for the aboriginal of their state erstwhile the chips were down. They would ne'er person done truthful portion U.S. troops remained successful Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the warring for them. And our existent strategical competitors, China and Russia, would emotion thing much than the United States to proceed to funnel billions of dollars successful resources and attraction into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.
When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah astatine the White House successful June, and again erstwhile I spoke by telephone to Ghani successful July, we had precise frank conversations. We talked astir however Afghanistan should hole to combat their civilian wars aft the U.S. subject departed. To cleanable up the corruption successful authorities truthful the authorities could relation for the Afghan people. We talked extensively astir the request for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to bash immoderate of that. I besides urged them to prosecute successful diplomacy, to question a governmental colony with the Taliban. This proposal was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but evidently helium was wrong.
So I’m near again to inquire of those who reason that we should stay: How galore much generations of America’s daughters and sons would you person maine nonstop to combat Afghanistan’s civilian warfare erstwhile Afghan troops volition not? How galore much lives, American lives, is it worth, however galore endless rows of headstones astatine Arlington National Cemetery? I’m wide connected my answer: I volition not repetition the mistakes we’ve made successful the past. The mistake of staying and warring indefinitely successful a struggle that is not successful the nationalist involvement of the United States, of doubling down connected a civilian warfare successful a overseas country, of attempting to remake a state done the endless subject deployments of U.S. forces. Those are the mistakes we cannot proceed to repetition due to the fact that we person important captious involvement successful the satellite that we cannot spend to ignore.
I besides privation to admit however achy this is to truthful galore of us. The scenes that we’re seeing successful Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, peculiarly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers — for anyone who has spent clip connected the crushed moving to enactment the Afghan people. For those who person mislaid loved ones successful Afghanistan, and for Americans who person fought and served our state successful Afghanistan, this is deeply, profoundly personal. It is for maine arsenic well.
I’ve worked connected these issues arsenic agelong arsenic anyone. I’ve been passim Afghanistan during this war, portion the warfare was going on, from Kabul to Kandahar, to the Kunar Valley. I’ve traveled determination connected 4 antithetic occasions. I’ve met with the people. I’ve spoken with the leaders. I spent clip with our troops, and I came to recognize firsthand what was and was not imaginable successful Afghanistan. So present we’re focused connected what is possible.
We volition proceed to enactment the Afghan people. We volition pb with our diplomacy, our planetary power and our humanitarian aid. We’ll proceed to propulsion for determination diplomacy and engagement to forestall unit and instability. We’ll proceed to talk retired for the basal rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls, conscionable arsenic we talk retired each implicit the world.
I’ve been clear, the quality rights indispensable beryllium the halfway of our overseas policy, not the periphery. But the mode to bash it is not done endless subject deployments. It’s with our diplomacy, our economical tools and rallying the satellite to articulation us.
Let maine laic retired the existent ngo successful Afghanistan: I was asked to authorize, and I did, 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the intent of assisting successful the departure of U.S. and allied civilian unit from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and susceptible Afghans to information extracurricular of Afghanistan. Our troops are moving to unafraid the airfield and guarantee continued cognition connected some the civilian and subject flights. We’re taking implicit aerial postulation control. We person safely unopen down our embassy and transferred our diplomats. Our diplomatic beingness is present consolidated astatine the airdrome arsenic well.
Over the coming days we mean to transport retired thousands of American citizens who person been surviving and moving successful Afghanistan. We’ll besides proceed to enactment the harmless departure of civilian unit — the civilian unit of our allies who are inactive serving successful Afghanistan. Operation Allies Refuge, which I announced backmost successful July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for peculiar migration visas and their families to the United States. In the coming days, the U.S. subject volition supply assistance to determination much S.I.V.-eligible Afghans and their families retired of Afghanistan.
We’re besides expanding exile entree to screen different susceptible Afghans who enactment for our embassy. U.S. nongovernmental organizations and Afghans who different are a large hazard successful U.S. quality agencies — I cognize determination are concerns astir wherefore we did not statesman evacuating Afghan civilians sooner. Part of the reply is immoderate of the Afghans did not privation to permission earlier, inactive hopeful for their country. And portion of it due to the fact that the Afghan authorities and its supporters discouraged america from organizing a wide exodus to debar triggering, arsenic they said, a situation of confidence.
American troops are performing this ngo arsenic professionally and arsenic efficaciously arsenic they ever do. But it is not without risks. As we transportation retired this departure, we person made it wide to the Taliban: If they onslaught our unit oregon disrupt our operation, the U.S. beingness volition beryllium swift, and the effect volition beryllium swift and forceful. We volition support our radical with devastating unit if necessary. Our existent subject ngo is abbreviated connected time, constricted successful scope and focused successful its objectives: Get our radical and our allies arsenic safely and rapidly arsenic possible. And erstwhile we person completed this mission, we volition reason our subject withdrawal. We volition extremity America’s longest warfare aft 20 agelong years of bloodshed.
The events we’re seeing present are sadly impervious that nary magnitude of subject unit would ever present a stable, united, unafraid Afghanistan, arsenic known successful past arsenic the graveyard of empires. What’s happening present could conscionable arsenic easy hap 5 years agone oregon 15 years successful the future. We person to beryllium honest, our ngo successful Afghanistan made galore missteps implicit the past 2 decades.
I’m present the 4th American president to preside implicit warfare successful Afghanistan. Two Democrats and 2 Republicans. I volition not walk this work connected to a 5th president. I volition not mislead the American radical by claiming that conscionable a small much clip successful Afghanistan volition marque each the difference. Nor volition I shrink from my stock of work for wherever we are contiguous and however we indispensable determination guardant from here. I americium president of the United States of America, and the subordinate stops with me.
I’m profoundly saddened by the facts we present face. But I bash not regret my determination to extremity America’s war-fighting successful Afghanistan and support a laser absorption connected our counterterrorism mission, determination and different parts of the world. Our ngo to degrade the violent menace of Al Qaeda successful Afghanistan and termination Osama bin Laden was a success. Our decades-long effort to flooded centuries of past and permanently alteration and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it ne'er could be.
I cannot and volition not inquire our troops to combat connected endlessly successful different country’s civilian war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families breached by grief and loss. This is not successful our nationalist information interest. It is not what the American radical want. It is not what our troops who person sacrificed truthful overmuch implicit the past 2 decades deserve. I made a committedness to the American radical erstwhile I ran for president that I would bring America’s subject engagement successful Afghanistan to an end. While it’s been hard and messy and, yes, acold from perfect, I’ve honored that commitment.
More importantly, I made a committedness to the brave men and women who service this federation that I wasn’t going to inquire them to proceed to hazard their lives successful a subject enactment that should’ve ended agelong ago. Our leaders did that successful Vietnam erstwhile I got present arsenic a young man. I volition not bash it successful Afghanistan.
I cognize my determination volition beryllium criticized. But I would alternatively instrumentality each that disapproval than walk this determination connected to different president of the United States, yet different one, a 5th one. Because it’s the close one, it’s the close determination for our people. The close 1 for our brave work members who risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the close 1 for America.
Thank you. May God support our troops, our diplomats and each brave Americans serving successful harm’s way.