President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will begin withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and all of the nation's forces will be out of the Middle Eastern country by Sept. 11.
After consulting with other leaders in the U.S. and outside the country, Biden said "I’ve concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.”
The May 1 deadline was originally part of a peace deal the Trump administration brokered with the Taliban in February 2020. The deadline reduced troops in Afghanistan throughout 2020 and required all U.S. troops to be withdrawn by May 1.
“When I came to office, I inherited a diplomatic agreement, duly negotiated between the government of the United States and the Taliban that all U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration,” said Biden.
The president said it wasn’t necessarily the plan he would have agreed on, but he respects it.
“So, in keeping with that agreement, and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal, begin it, on May 1 of this year,” said Biden.
The forces of U.S. allies will also withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, according to Biden.
“U.S. troops as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of the heinous attack on Sept. 11, but we’ll not take our eyes off the terrorist threat," said Biden.
Watch his remarks below:
Biden said the U.S. will not rush out of Afghanistan.
“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit,” said Biden. “We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely. And we’ll do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do.”
Biden said if the Taliban attacks the U.S. as we draw down, our troops will defend themselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.
“We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorist to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil. The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well and we’ll focus our full attention on the threats we face today,” said Biden.
Biden is the fourth U.S. president to preside over American troops in Afghanistan and he said he won't "pass this responsibility onto a fifth."
Biden said he spoke with former President George W. Bush on Tuesday to inform him of his decision. Though the two have had differing opinions on several issues, Biden said they’re “absolutely united” in their “respect and support for the valor, courage and integrity of the women and men of the U.S. armed forces who have served.”
The reports of the withdrawal prompted criticism from Republican lawmakers on Tuesday. Fox News reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the decision a "grave mistake."
"It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished," McConnell said, according to Fox News.
At the White House briefing Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki responded to McConnell's remarks directly.
"The president has been consistent in his view that there is not a military solution in Afghanistan and that we have been there far too long," Psaki said, adding that "we need to focus our resources on the threats we face today."
Towards the end of his remarks on Wednesday, Biden also addressed the criticisms he's facing for withdrawing.
“Look, I know there are many that will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust military presence to stand as leverage. We gave that argument a decade. It’s never proved effective, not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan and not when we’re down to a few thousand. Our diplomacy doesn’t hinge on having boots in harm’s way, U.S. boots on the ground,” said Biden.
Biden said the U.S. went to Afghanistan because of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which can’t explain why we should remain there in 2021.
“Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us. We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that have spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11,” said Biden.
Biden said as of Wednesday, 2,488 U.S. troops and personnel who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom Sentinel, our Afghanistan conflicts. Another 20,722 have been wounded.