President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the drawdown of US military troops from Afghanistan. The drawdown was originally promised to be done by September 11th. Delaney Tarr reports on Biden’s decision. 

President Joe Biden delivered remarks today on the ongoing removal of US troops from Afghanistan. Biden moved to complete the drawdown after a 20-year war in the nation. 

Today, Biden called back to his remarks in April and reaffirmed his belief that the US “did what we wanted to do” in Afghanistan, citing retaliations on the 9/11 terrorists and Osama Bin Laden. 

Since Biden’s announcement of the removal in April, the drawdown has been conducted rapidly. 

“In this context, speed is safety,” said Biden. Ahead of the September deadline troops evacuated the Bagram base. Afghan and US military leaders have some dispute over details of the exit, with Afghan military heads saying the military slipped out overnight and the US saying the military communicated their departure to Afghan officials. 

Despite fraught details, Biden stood firm on the decision to remove the military presence after two decades. He reiterated the White House statement that the United States will have a continued diplomatic and humanitarian presence in Afghanistan. 

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” said Biden, “It’s the right and responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future.”

Biden expressed faith in the Afghan military and said he trusts the over 300,000 current serving members. He said the US and NATO allies have trained the military together and provided them with all the tools, training, and equipment of “any modern military.” 

The Taliban currently stands at around 75,000 members, and Biden said he does not believe a Taliban takeover is inevitable. 

One reporter asked if Biden trusted the Taliban, to which Biden snapped back “Is that a serious question?” Biden called it a silly question and said he does not trust the Taliban. Instead, he focused his trust on the Afghan government. 

“They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place,” said Biden, “the question is will they generate the cohesion to do it.” 

He then said the US will work with the Afghan government to ensure they fulfill food necessities and other things in the region.

Biden instead stressed the government’s independence and capability, and their responsibility to make peace somehow with the Taliban. 

“Afghan leaders have to come together and drive to a future the Afghan people want and deserve,” said Biden.

Biden said the US government will engage in “determined diplomacy” to pursue a peace agreement between nations and has asked the Secretary of State Antony Blinken to work with the parties in Afghanistan. 

“To be clear, countries in the region have an essential role to play in supporting Americans,” said Biden. 

The President then stressed the US plan to continue providing civilian and humanitarian assistance, specifically surrounding issues like women’s rights. He also spotlighted continued efforts to work for the release of detained Americans like Mark Frerichs. 

Frerichs, 58, is a civil engineer that was kidnapped in January 2020 in the capital city of Kabul, likely by the Taliban. He remains a hostage to this day.

The White House has also established the goal of taking on Afghan nationals who worked with US forces during the war as translators and interpreters. Those who held the roles are in the process of receiving special immigrant visas to the United States.

Biden said the procedure has already been dramatically accelerated for Afghan nationals, and since his inauguration, they’ve approved 2500 visas to bring them to the US. Of those 2500 about half have made use of the visas, according to Biden.

He also said the White House is working with Congress to change legislation to streamline the process of approving those phases, but in the meantime, the government will relocate the Afghan national to a third country until their visa process is approved. 

“There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us,” said Biden.

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