A time aft U.S. troops left, the president called the ngo to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies an “extraordinary success” and forcefully defended ending the United States’ involvement.
Aug. 31, 2021, 6:34 p.m. ET
The pursuing is simply a transcript of President Biden’s remarks astir Afghanistan connected Tuesday, a time aft the United States concluded its two-decade war determination with the extremity of evacuation flights and the departure of the past American troops.
Last nighttime successful Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of warfare successful Afghanistan. The longest warfare successful American history. We completed 1 of the biggest airlifts successful past with much than 120,000 radical evacuated to safety. That fig is much than treble what astir experts thought were possible. No nation, nary federation has ever done thing similar it successful each of history. Only the United States had the capableness and the volition and quality to bash it, and we did it today.
The bonzer occurrence of this ngo was owed to the unthinkable skill, bravery and selfless courageousness of the United States subject and our diplomats and quality professionals. For weeks, they risked their lives to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies and partners and others connected committee planes and retired of the country.
They did it facing a crush of tremendous crowds seeking to permission the country. They did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists, sworn enemies of the Taliban, were lurking successful the midst of those crowds. And still, the women and men of the United States military, our diplomatic corps and quality professionals did their occupation and did it well. Risking their lives, not for nonrecreational gains but to service others. Not successful a ngo of warfare but successful a ngo of mercy.
Twenty work members were wounded successful the work of this mission. Thirteen heroes gave their lives. I was conscionable astatine Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer. We beryllium them and their families a indebtedness of gratitude we tin ne'er repay, but we should never, ever forget.
In April, I made a determination to extremity this war. As portion of that decision, we acceptable the day of Aug. 31 for American troops to withdraw. The presumption was that much than 300,000 Afghan nationalist information forces that we had trained implicit the past 2 decades and equipped would beryllium a beardown adversary successful their civilian wars with the Taliban.
That assumption, that the Afghan authorities would beryllium capable to clasp connected for a play of clip beyond subject drawdown, turned retired not to beryllium accurate. But I inactive instructed our nationalist information squad to hole for each eventuality, adjacent that one. And that’s what we did. So we were acceptable erstwhile the Afghan information forces, aft 2 decades of warring for their state and losing thousands of their own, did not clasp connected arsenic agelong arsenic anyone expected.
We were acceptable erstwhile they and the radical of Afghanistan watched their ain authorities illness and the president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing implicit the state to their force the Taliban and importantly expanding the hazard to U.S. unit and our allies.
As a result, to safely extract Americans citizens earlier Aug. 31, arsenic good arsenic embassy personnel, allies and partners and those Afghans who had worked with america and fought alongside of america for 20 years, I had authorized 6,000 American troops to Kabul to assistance unafraid the airport.
As Gen. [Kenneth F.] McKenzie said, this is the mode the ngo was designed. It was designed to run nether terrible accent and attack, and that’s what it did. Since March, we reached retired 19 times to Americans successful Afghanistan, with aggregate warnings and offers to assistance them permission Afghanistan, each the mode backmost arsenic acold arsenic March. After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did archetypal outreach and investigation and identified astir 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to enactment successful Afghanistan but present wanted to leave.
Our Operation Allied Rescue ended up getting much than 5,500 Americans out. We got retired thousands of citizens and diplomats from those countries that went into Afghanistan with america to get Bin Laden. We got retired locally employed unit astatine the United States Embassy and their families, totaling astir 2,500 people. We got thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States retired arsenic well.
Now we judge that astir 100 to 200 Americans stay successful Afghanistan with immoderate volition to leave. Most of those that stay are dual citizens, longtime residents who had earlier decided to enactment due to the fact that of their household roots successful Afghanistan.
The bottommost line: Ninety percent of Americans successful Afghanistan who wanted to permission were capable to leave. And for those remaining Americans, determination is nary deadline. We stay committed to get them retired if they privation to travel out.
Secretary of State [Antony J.] Blinken is starring the continued diplomatic efforts to guarantee harmless transition for immoderate American, Afghan spouse oregon overseas nationalist who wants to permission Afghanistan. In fact, conscionable yesterday, the United Nations Security Council passed a solution that sent a wide connection astir what the planetary assemblage expects the Taliban to present connected moving forward. Notably, state of travel. Freedom to leave. And unneurotic we’re joined by implicit 100 countries that are determined to marque definite the Taliban upholds those commitments. It volition see ongoing efforts successful Afghanistan to reopen the airport, arsenic good arsenic overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who privation to permission and present humanitarian assistance to the radical of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has made nationalist commitments, broadcast connected tv and vigor crossed Afghanistan, connected harmless transition for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans. We don’t instrumentality them by their connection unsocial but by their actions. And we person leverage to marque definite those commitments are met.
Let maine beryllium clear: Leaving Aug. 31 is not owed to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to prevention American lives. My predecessor, the erstwhile president, signed an statement with the Taliban to region U.S. troops by May 1, conscionable months aft I was inaugurated. It included nary request that Taliban enactment retired a cooperative governing statement with the Afghan government. But it did authorize the merchandise of 5,000 prisoners past year, including immoderate of the Taliban’s apical warfare commanders, among those who conscionable took power of Afghanistan.
By the clip I came to office, the Taliban was successful its strongest subject position since 2001, controlling oregon contesting astir fractional of the country. The erstwhile administration’s statement said that if we stuck to the May 1 deadline that they had signed connected to permission by, the Taliban wouldn’t onslaught immoderate American forces. But if we stayed, each bets were off.
So we were near with a elemental decision: Either travel done connected the committedness made by the past administration and permission Afghanistan, oregon accidental we weren’t leaving and perpetrate different tens of thousands much troops. Going backmost to war. That was the choice, the existent choice. Between leaving oregon escalating. I was not going to widen this everlastingly war. And I was not extending a everlastingly exit.
The determination to extremity the subject airlift operations astatine Kabul airdrome was based connected the unanimous proposal of my civilian and subject advisers. The caput of state, the caput of defense, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and each the work chiefs and the commanders successful the field. Their proposal was that the safest mode to unafraid the transition of the remaining Americans and others retired of the state was not to proceed arsenic 6,000 troops connected the crushed successful harm’s mode successful Kabul, but alternatively to get them retired done nonmilitary means.
In the 17 days that we operated successful Kabul, aft the Taliban seized power, we engaged successful an around-the-clock effort to supply each American the accidental to leave. Our State Department was moving 24/7 contacting and talking and, successful immoderate cases, walking Americans into the airport. Again, much than 5,500 Americans were airlifted out. And for those who remain, we volition marque arrangements to get them retired if they truthful choose.
As for the Afghans, we and our partners person airlifted 100,000 of them. No state successful history has done much to airlift retired the residents of different state than we person done. We volition proceed to enactment to assistance much radical permission the state who are astatine risk. We’re acold from done.
For now, I impulse each Americans to articulation maine successful grateful supplication for our troops and diplomats and quality officers who carried retired this ngo of mercy successful Kabul, and astatine tremendous hazard with specified unparalleled results. An airlift that evacuated tens of thousands to a web of volunteers and veterans who helped place those needing evacuation, usher them to the airdrome and provided them for their enactment on the way. We’re going to proceed to request their help. We request your help, and I’m looking guardant to gathering with you. And to everyone who is present offering, oregon who volition offer, to invited Afghan allies to their homes astir the world, including successful America, we convey you.
I instrumentality work for the decision. Now, immoderate accidental we should person started wide evacuations sooner. “Couldn’t this person been done successful a much orderly manner?” I respectfully disagree. Imagine if we had begun evacuations successful June oregon July, bringing successful thousands of American troops and evacuating much than 120,000 radical successful the mediate of a civilian war. There inactive would person been a unreserved to the airport. A breakdown successful assurance and power of the government. And it inactive would person been precise hard and unsafe mission.
The bottommost enactment is, determination is nary evacuation from the extremity of a warfare that you tin tally without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced. None. To those who would accidental we should person stayed indefinitely, for years connected end, they ask: “Why don’t we conscionable support doing what we were doing? Why bash we person to alteration anything?”
The information is everything had changed. My predecessor had made a woody with the Taliban. When I came into office, we faced a deadline, May 1. The Taliban onslaught was coming. We faced 1 of 2 choices: travel the statement of the erstwhile medication and widen it to person much clip for radical to get out, oregon nonstop successful thousands much troops and escalate the war.
To those asking for a 3rd decennary of warfare successful Afghanistan, I ask: What is the captious nationalist interest? In my view, we lone person one: to marque definite Afghanistan tin ne'er beryllium utilized again to motorboat an onslaught connected our homeland.
Remember wherefore we went to Afghanistan successful the archetypal place? Because we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda connected Sept. 11, 2001, and they were based successful Afghanistan. We delivered justness to Bin laden connected May 2, 2011. Over a decennary ago. Al Qaeda was decimated.
I respectfully suggest you inquire yourself this question: If we had been attacked connected Sept. 11, 2001, from Yemen alternatively of Afghanistan, would we person ever gone to warfare successful Afghanistan? Even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan successful the twelvemonth 2001? I judge the honorable reply is no. That’s due to the fact that we had nary captious involvement successful Afghanistan different than to forestall an onslaught connected America’s homeland and our friends. And that’s existent today.
We succeeded successful what we acceptable retired to bash successful Afghanistan implicit a decennary ago. Then we stayed for different decade. It was clip to extremity this war.
This is simply a caller world. The panic menace has metastasized crossed the world, good beyond Afghanistan. We look threats from Al Shabab successful Somalia, Al Qaeda affiliates successful Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIS attempting to make a caliphate successful Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates crossed Africa and Asia.
The cardinal work of a president, successful my opinion, is to support and support America. Not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow. That is the guiding rule down my decisions astir Afghanistan.
Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan
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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.
I simply bash not judge that the information and information of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a twelvemonth successful Afghanistan. But I besides cognize that the menace from coercion continues successful its pernicious and evil nature. But it’s changed. Expanded to different countries. Our strategy has to change, too.
We volition support the combat against coercion successful Afghanistan and different countries. We conscionable don’t request to combat a crushed warfare to bash it. We person what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can onslaught terrorists and targets without American boots connected the ground, precise fewer if needed.
We person shown that capableness successful conscionable the past week. We struck ISIS-K remotely, days aft they murdered 13 of our work members and twelve of guiltless Afghans. And to ISIS-K, we are not done with you yet.
As commandant successful chief, I firmly judge the champion way to defender our information and our information lies successful a tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy that goes aft panic wherever it is today. Not wherever it was 2 decades ago. That’s what is successful our nationalist interest.
And present is the captious happening to understand: The satellite is changing. We’re engaged successful a superior contention with China. We’re dealing with the challenges connected aggregate fronts with Russia. We’re confronted with cyberattacks and atomic proliferation. We person to enactment up American competitiveness to conscionable these caller challenges and the contention for the 21st century. And we tin bash both: combat terrorism, and instrumentality connected caller threats that are present present and volition proceed to beryllium present successful the future. And there’s thing China oregon Russia would alternatively have, would privation much successful this competition, than the United States to beryllium bogged down different decennary successful Afghanistan.
As we crook the leafage connected the overseas argumentation that’s guided our federation the past 2 decades, we’ve got to larn from our mistakes. To maine determination are 2 that are paramount: First, we indispensable acceptable missions with clear, achievable goals, not ones we’ll ne'er reach. And second, we indispensable enactment intelligibly focused connected the cardinal nationalist information involvement of the United States of America.
This determination astir Afghanistan is not conscionable astir Afghanistan. It’s astir ending an epoch of large subject operations to remake different countries. We saw a ngo of counterterrorism successful Afghanistan, getting the terrorists to halt the attacks, morph into a counterinsurgency, federation building, trying to make a democratic, cohesive and agreed Afghanistan. Something that has ne'er been done implicit galore centuries of Afghan’s history. Moving connected from that mind-set and those benignant of large-scale unit deployments volition marque america stronger and much effectual and safer astatine home.
And for anyone who gets the incorrect idea, fto maine accidental clearly: To those who privation America harm, to those engaged successful coercion against america oregon our allies, cognize this. The United States volition ne'er rest. We volition not forgive. We volition not forget. We volition hunt you down to the ends of the Earth, and you volition wage the eventual price.
Let maine beryllium clear. We’ll proceed to enactment the Afghan radical done diplomacy, planetary power and humanitarian aid. We volition proceed to propulsion for determination diplomacy engagement to forestall unit and instability. We’ll proceed to talk retired for the basal rights of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls, arsenic we talk retired for women and girls each astir the globe.
And I’ve been wide that quality rights volition beryllium the halfway of our overseas policy. But the mode to bash that is not done endless subject deployments, but done diplomacy, economical tools and rallying the remainder of the satellite for support.
My chap Americans, the warfare successful Afghanistan is present over. I’m the 4th president that indispensable look the contented of whether and erstwhile to extremity this war. When I was moving for president, I made a committedness to the American radical that I would extremity this war. Today I’ve honored that commitment. It was clip to beryllium honorable with the American radical again. We nary longer had a wide intent successful an open-ended ngo successful Afghanistan. After 20 years of warfare successful Afghanistan, I garbage to nonstop different procreation of America’s sons and daughters to combat a warfare that should’ve ended agelong ago.
After much than $2 trillion spent successful Afghanistan — costs that researchers astatine Brown University estimated would beryllium implicit $300 cardinal a time for 20 years successful Afghanistan. For 2 decades. Yes. The American radical should perceive this: $300 cardinal a time for 2 decades. You instrumentality the fig of 1 trillion, arsenic galore say, that’s inactive $150 cardinal a time for 2 decades. And what person we mislaid arsenic a effect successful presumption of opportunities?
I garbage to proceed a warfare that was nary longer successful the work of the captious nationalist interests of our people. And astir of all, aft 800,000 Americans serving successful Afghanistan — I’ve traveled that full country. Brave and honorable service. After 20,744 American servicemen and -women injured, and the nonaccomplishment of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives mislaid conscionable this week, I garbage to unfastened different decennary of warfare successful Afghanistan.
We’ve been a federation excessively agelong astatine war. If you’re 20 years aged today, you’ve ne'er known an America astatine peace. So erstwhile I perceive that we could have, should’ve, continued this alleged low-grade effort successful Afghanistan, astatine debased hazard to our work members, astatine debased cost, I don’t deliberation capable radical recognize however overmuch we person asked of the 1 percent of this state who enactment that azygous on, consenting to enactment their lives connected the enactment successful defence of our nation.
Maybe it’s due to the fact that my deceased lad Beau served successful Iraq for a afloat year. Before that, good — possibly it’s due to the fact that of what I’ve seen implicit the years arsenic senator, vice president and president traveling these countries. A batch of our veterans and their families person gone done hell. Deployment aft deployment, months and years distant from their families, missed birthdays, anniversaries, bare chairs astatine holidays, fiscal struggles, divorces, nonaccomplishment of limbs, traumatic encephalon injury, post-traumatic stress.
We spot it successful the struggles galore person erstwhile they travel home. We spot it successful the strain connected their families and caregivers. We spot it successful the strain of their families erstwhile they’re not there. We spot it successful the grief borne by their survivors. The outgo of war, they volition transportation with them their full lives.
Most tragically, we spot it successful the shocking and stunning statistic that should springiness intermission to anyone who thinks warfare tin ever beryllium debased grade, debased hazard oregon debased cost: Eighteen veterans, connected average, who dice by termination each azygous time successful America. Not successful a far-off place, but close present successful America.
There’s thing debased people oregon debased hazard oregon debased outgo astir immoderate war. It’s clip to extremity the warfare successful Afghanistan. As we adjacent 20 years of warfare and strife and symptom and sacrifice, it’s clip to look for the future, not the past. To a aboriginal that’s safer, to a aboriginal that’s much secure. To a aboriginal that honors those who’ve served and each those who gave what President Lincoln called their “last afloat measurement of devotion.” I springiness you my connection with each of my heart. I judge this is the close decision, a omniscient determination and the champion determination for America.
Thank you. Thank you and whitethorn God bless you all. And whitethorn God support our troops.