Washington — President Biden is poised to announce Wednesday plans to pull all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, a move that would bring an end to America’s longest war by the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.
Mr. Biden is expected to make remarks “on the way forward in Afghanistan, including his plans and timeline for” the drawdown of U.S. troops, from the Treaty Room at the White House, the same place where former President George W. Bush announced airstrikes in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. Following his speech, Mr. Biden is scheduled to visit Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where service members who died in America’s most recent wars are buried.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth,” Mr. Biden will say, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.
How to watch President Biden’s remarks on Afghanistan today
- What: President Biden delivers remarks on plans for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
- Date: Wednesday, April 14, 2021
- Time: 2:15 p.m. ET
- Location: The White House
- Online stream: Live on CBSN in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device
The president will tell the American people that after nearly two decades in Afghanistan, the U.S. “cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result.”
“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Mr. Biden is poised to announce. “It is time for American troops to come home.”
While the U.S. will not be involved in Afghanistan militarily, diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue, the president will say, including through support to the Afghan government and assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” Mr. Biden is expected to say. “Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that will determine our standing and reach today and into the years to come.”
With his new target date for completing the drawdown in Afghanistan, Mr. Biden will miss a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal set by the Trump administration under an agreement with the Taliban last year. But a senior administration official said Tuesday the U.S. will begin pulling American troops before May 1, with the plan to have all service members out of the country before September 11. The president acknowledged last month it would be “hard” to meet the May 1 deadline set by his predecessor.
The official said the September 11 deadline for having troops out of Afghanistan is “not conditions-based.”
Ahead of his remarks, Mr. Biden spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the withdrawal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. In a series of tweets about the call, Ghani said “the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the U.S. decision and we will work with our U.S. partners to ensure a smooth transition.”
Psaki also revealed Mr. Biden consulted with some of his predecessors about the drawdown, but did not identify who.
Mr. Biden’s move to bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan has been met with mixed reactions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Top Republicans criticized the president’s decision, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a “grave mistake” and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying the move is “outrageous.”
Some Democrats, too, have expressed concern about the forthcoming announcement. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would not support any U.S. aid to Afghanistan “if there is backsliding on civil society [and] the rights that women have achieved,” and is “concerned that after so much blood and national treasure that we don’t lose what we were seeking to achieve.”
But progressives cheered Mr. Biden’s move. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said it was the “brave and right decision,” while Congressman Ro Khanna said he applauds Mr. Biden “for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending forever war.”