Afghan mission will end on August 31: Joe Biden
America’s military mission in Afghanistan will end on August 31, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday, announcing an “end to America’s longest war” amid concerns that the Taliban could retake control following a surge that is already underway.
Stressing that “speed is safety”, the President said the US military has “achieved” its goals in the country to degrade al Qaeda and prevent more attacks on the US.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” he said in a speech in which he also said the American support to Afghans will endure.
Biden called on countries in the region to step up efforts to bring about political solution in Afghanistan, and reiterated that the future of the country must be in the hands of Afghans, even as he acknowledged that the Islamist Taliban was at its strongest since 2001.
“Do I trust the Taliban? No,” he said, before adding that it was not inevitable that the country would fall to the hardline rulers who were in power before the US launched an invasion in retaliation to the September 11 attacks.
The US last weekend abandoned Bagram air base, the long-time staging ground for US military operations in the country. Washington agreed to withdraw in a deal negotiated last year under Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden has since overruled military leaders who wanted to keep a larger presence to assist Afghan security forces and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a staging ground for extremist groups. On Thursday, Biden said the country will refocus its counterterrorism efforts in other regions such as Syria and Yemen where terror groups had gained strength.
The Taliban on Thursday seized a third Afghan border crossing, this time with Iran.
The Taliban now control roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan. Their victories are also putting pressure on provincial cities and taking away government control of key transportation routes.