Biden Spoke to Bush, Obama Prior to Announcing Pullout of US Troops From Afghanistan

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Biden announced a full US troop withdrawal starting on May 1 in the White House Treaty Room on Wednesday, the same room where Bush declared the first airstrikes in Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

US President Joe Biden spoke with former President George W. Bush on Tuesday, ahead of his announcement that US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan. 

“I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision,” Biden said in his remarks.

“While he and I have had many disagreements over policy throughout the years, we’re absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, the courage and integrity of the women and men in the United States Armed Forces who served, and immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments,” he said. 

Moreover, according to the White House, Biden informed former President Barack Obama, who initiated the reduction of the contingent in 2011, of his decision as well.

​”We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden added in his address.

Jen Psaki, however, dodged a query on Wednesday about whether US special forces troops will stay in Afghanistan.

Decision to Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan Was “Absolutely Clear” to Biden

Later in the day, after the televised address, Biden told reporters that the decision to start the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was clear to him.

“To me, it was absolutely clear,” Biden said when asked if it was difficult to make the decision while visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where many US veterans are buried.

The president announced on Wednesday that the US will begin withdrawing its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and hopes to be fully out by September 11. NATO forces will leave Afghanistan on May 1 as well.

Biden said that the US went to Afghanistan to counter al-Qaeda* and to prevent the country from being a safe haven for extremists.

In his turn, on the same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press briefing in Brussels that the US will remain vigilant about the threat of reemerging terrorism in Afghanistan and reorganize its counterterrorism capabilities after the last troops are withdrawn from that county.

Blinken also said the US government will hold the Taliban movement accountable to its commitment not to allow al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations to use Afghanistan as a base for attack against the US.

Ex-president Obama issued a statement in which he supported the Biden administration decision, saying that “it’s time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily, and bring our remaining troops home.” He added that since the withdrawal of troops in 2011, the United States has made it clear to the Afghan government that it will gradually transfer responsibility for security to it.

Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, focused on returning troops from “forever” wars and initiated the final troop drawdown. Support and criticism of this decision were expressed by supporters of both sides of the country’s political spectrum.

AP Photo / Hussein Sayed

In this Sept. 12, 2020, file photo, Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai, center front, and his delegation attend the opening session of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in Doha, Qatar. Afghanistan’s Taliban on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, welcomed a tweet from President Donald Trump in which he promised to have the last of the U.S.’s troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas. If that withdrawal happens, it would be months ahead of schedule and the tweet made no reference to a Taliban promise to fight terrorist groups — a previous pre-requisite for an American withdrawal.

Trump vetoed a $740 billion defense bill in December, in part because it included a clause that would have blocked his attempt to reduce US troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 in November to 2,500 by January 15.

In early 2020, Trump’s administration reached an agreement with Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha, saying that the US would pull out of Afghanistan by May 1. Biden said he would not be able to keep that promise, but that the US will start winding down its involvement on May 1, with the intention of getting all American personnel out by September 11.

The Taliban reportedly insists on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within the deadline specified in the Doha agreement.

In Afghanistan, there is a confrontation between government forces and the militants of the radical Taliban movement, which has seized significant territory in rural areas and launched an offensive against large cities. The Afghan Defense and Security Forces are conducting joint counter-terrorism operations across the country.

*Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia and many other states.

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