U.S. president urges regional states, including Pakistan, to support Afghanistan’s peace effort as he announces schedule for withdrawal of all troops
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that Washington will begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan from May 1, rejecting calls for the U.S. to maintain a presence in the war-torn state and stressing that it was time to end America’s longest war.
In a nationally televised speech from the White House, Biden admitted that America’s objectives in Afghanistan had become murkier over the past decade. He vowed that the U.S. would complete the withdrawal of all its remaining troops by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the invasion.
“It was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking. We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” he said, noting that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden had already been slain and the organization on its last legs in Afghanistan. “And it’s time to end the forever war,” he added.
Criticizing previously stated U.S. aspirations of unifying Afghans, Biden said this ignored centuries of history. “It’s never been done,” he said.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth,” he said, adding that he did not believe U.S. troops could provide any leverage for peace. “We gave that argument a decade. It has never proven effective,” he said. “American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries,” he said.
Passing the buck
But while Biden was clear on an exit schedule, he warned the Taliban that Washington would hold them accountable on Afghanistan, and urged other nations, including Pakistan, to help achieve peace. “We will hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the U.S. or its allies from Afghan soil. The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well,” he said.
“We will ask other countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey,” he said, stressing that they had a “significant stake in the stable future” of Afghanistan.
Prior to Biden’s announcement, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reiterating that Pakistan would always support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process based on consensus of all stakeholders. According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations, matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including latest developments in the Afghan peace process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed during their phone conversation.
The military’s media wing said the U.S. dignitary had acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in the region and pledged to enhance relations between the two countries.
According to Biden, the Afghanistan war has cost the lives of 2,448 American service members and cost an estimated $2 trillion. U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan peaked at more than 100,000 in 2011. Upon assuming the presidency in January, Biden was faced with a May 1 withdrawal deadline set by his predecessor Donald Trump, with the Taliban warning to not engage in any more dialogue until this was achieved. Instead, Biden said the final withdrawal would start on May 1 and end by Sept. 11.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, lashed out at Biden’s announcement, warning it would backfire and prolong the conflict. “What do we lose by pulling out? We lose that insurance policy against another 9/11,” he said, referring to the possibility of an Al Qaeda resurgence.
In a posting on Twitter, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had spoken with Biden and respected the U.S. decision. “We will work with our U.S. partners to ensure a smooth transition,” he said, adding that Afghan forces were more than capable of ensuring peace and stability in their country.