President Biden says it's time for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan.
Speaking from the exact spot where former President George W. Bush announced the start of what has become America's longest war, Biden says he plans to be the president who ends it.
"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," Biden said Wednesday.
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His plan is to honor the Trump administration's agreement with the Taliban to begin withdrawing troops next month, and he's committed to being completely out of Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"This is an important moment for our alliance. Almost 20 years ago after the United States was attacked on 9/11. Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us. And together, we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve. And now it is time to bring our forces home," said Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.
There are 2,500 troops still in Afghanistan.
Republican lawmakers did not support Trump's plan to bring them home by May 1 and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)still maintains a US withdrawal is a grave mistake.
"Apparently, we're to help our adversaries ring in the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by gift-wrapping the country and handing it right back to them," McConnel said. "Here's what this administration's own national intelligence threat assessment says will happen: 'The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the Coalition withdraws support.""
Some Democrats are also concerned about Biden's decision. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a moderate Democrat from New Hampshire, tweeted, "The US has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future."
I’m very disappointed in @POTUS' decision to set a Sept. deadline to walk away from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination w/our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future. https://t.co/OfHx3cmJX1
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) April 13, 2021
The U.S. will continue to support peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban through diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, but the President says it's time to shift our focus to other foreign policy priorities like China and Russia.
"Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us. We will be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20," Biden said.
He followed up his speech by visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where he paid his respects to the 2,488 men and women who have lost their lives fighting in the Afghanistan conflict.