'Time to end' US war in Afghanistan with total pullout: Biden

AFP
The US president named September 11 as the deadline by which the last US soldiers will have finally departed. The pullout will begin on May 1.
AFP
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Time to end US war in Afghanistan with total pullout: Biden
AFP

US President Joe Biden walks through Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen veterans of the Afghan conflict in Arlington, Virginia, on April 14.

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday it's "time to end" America's longest war with the unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, where they have spent two decades in a bloody, increasingly futile battle against the Taliban.

Dubbed the "forever war," the US military onslaught in Afghanistan began in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

Now, 20 years later — after almost 2,400 US military and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths — Biden named September 11 as the deadline by which the last US soldiers will have finally departed. The pullout will begin on May 1.

In a nationally televised address, Biden said the United States had accomplished its limited original mission of crushing the international jihadist groups behind the 9/11 attacks and that with every passing year the rationale for staying was more "unclear."

Biden insisted there would be no "hasty exit," but was adamant about his decision.

"A horrific attack 20 years ago... cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," he said. "It's time to end the forever war."

Biden told Americans that it was time to accept reality.

Biden's decision was not a shock. The war is hugely unpopular among voters, and Biden's predecessor Donald Trump had committed to pulling out at the start of May.

"I applaud President Biden's decision," top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday.

However, there was immediate criticism from some quarters that the United States is abandoning the Afghan government and encouraging jihadist insurgencies.

Afghan forces on own

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted on Wednesday after a phone call with Biden that his forces are "fully capable" of controlling the country.

And Biden said that Washington will continue to support the Afghan government, only not "militarily," according to the excerpts.

A decade ago, the United States had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Today there is a US-led NATO force of about 9,600, with some 2,500 of those soldiers American. NATO announced that the withdrawal would be "orderly, coordinated and deliberate," beginning on May 1.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the exit "entails risk" but the alternative is "a long-term, open-ended military commitment with potentially more NATO troops."

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