Biden Pledges Continued Support to Afghanistan After U S Withdrawal Ends

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    President Joe Biden said the American military mission in Afghanistan will conclude by Aug. 31, arguing that the U.S. achieved its goals and that it was not there to build a nation.

    “I want to be clear: the US military mission in Afghanistan continues through the end of August,” Biden said in an address to the nation on Thursday. He said the U.S. will continue “to speak out for the rights of women and girls” even as the Taliban makes quick gains amid the American drawdown.

    Biden reflected on America’s longest war, which will end just shy of its 20-year anniversary after the deaths of 2,448 U.S. service members and nearly 21,000 wounded.

    “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” he said. “The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies created in response to the world as it was 20 years ago.”

    Biden also said the U.S. would continue to provide civilian and humanitarian aid, and help the Afghan defense forces maintain their air force. But, he added, countries in the region should “step up their efforts.”

    He insisted it is not inevitable that the Taliban will retake control of the country, noting that the Afghan government has a far larger army and an air force.

    “They have the capacity, they have the forces, they have the equipment,” he said. “The question is: will they do it.”

    Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were briefed at the White House on Thursday morning about the progress of the troop withdrawal, according to their daily schedules. Administration officials had previously discussed temporarily relocating about 9,000 Afghans who could be at high risk for helping U.S. forces to three Central Asian nations for processing.

    Biden said that so far, the U.S. has approved 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who have aided American forces, but that less than half of those eligible have exercised their right to do so.

    The president originally pledged to withdraw U.S. combat troops entirely from the country by September, save for a contingent to protect its diplomats, a time line that the Pentagon recently said would be completed by late August. The withdrawal would symbolize the end of America’s longest war, some two decades after then-President George W. Bush sent troops to oust the Taliban government following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

    But the U.S. withdrawal — after nearly $1 trillion in spending — has only underscored the continuing turmoil in a country referred to as the “graveyard of empires.” With the U.S. pullout underway, tens of thousands of Afghan families are fleeing regions in the country’s north to escape the advance of Taliban militants who are clashing with Afghan security forces.

    “We’re not going to have a ‘mission accomplished’ moment in this regard,” White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday. “It’s a 20-year war that has not been won militarily.”

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    In This Story: Afghanistan

    Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast.

    Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is around 32 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

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