President Joe Biden: Afghanistan evacuation an extraordinary success
President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi
President Joe Biden gave a full-throated defense of his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict, saying the era of large U.S. military deployments to rebuild other nations has ended.
Biden’s address Tuesday came just 11 days before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that precipitated the U.S intervention in Afghanistan.
“My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over,” Biden said from the White House. “I’m the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war.”
“When I was running for president I made a commitment that I would end this war and today I have honored that commitment. It was time to be honest with the American people, we no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan,” he added.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan, it’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” the president said.
At 3:29 p.m. ET on Monday, one minute before midnight in Kabul, the last C-17 cargo aircraft carrying U.S. forces left Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s 20-year military campaign in the country.
The Taliban, ousted from power by the U.S. shortly after the 9/11 attacks, now control nearly all of the country.
The departure of U.S. forces came on the heels of a colossal 17-day humanitarian evacuation of 123,000 people desperate to flee Taliban rule. Of the total number of evacuees airlifted out of Kabul, 6,000 were U.S. citizens.
“Only the United States had the capacity and the will and the ability to do it,” Biden said, adding that the evacuation mission was an “extraordinary success.”
The president took full responsibility for the decision to withdrawal by Aug. 31, but he pushed back against critics say the administration was unprepared for the consequences.
“We were ready when the Afghan security forces after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own did not hold on as long as anyone expected,” Biden said.
“We were ready when the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and the president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our allies.”
“It was time to end this war,” Biden said, adding “I was not going to extend this Forever War and I was not extending a forever exit.”
“Let me be clear, leaving on August the 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives,” the president said.
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the four-star commander of the U.S. Central Command, said there were no Americans aboard the final five flights out of Kabul.
“We were not able to bring any Americans out; that activity probably ended about 12 hours before our exit. Although we continue the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute, but none of them made it to the airport,” McKenzie said Monday via video teleconference in Qatar.
McKenzie, who oversees the U.S. military mission in the region, added that there were no evacuees left at the airfield when the last C-17 took off. All U.S. service members and Afghan troops who helped defend the airport, along with their families, were also airlifted out on Monday, according to the general.
The president in his Tuesday address said that “90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.”
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