The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh in London and Julian Borger in Washington report:
Addressing the world from the White House, Joe Biden said 2,500 US troops plus a further 7,000 from “Nato allies” including 750 from the UK would gradually leave the country starting on 1 May. “The plan has long been in together, out together,” he added.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result,” Biden said in his late afternoon speech.
The plan was debated at a Nato summit in Brussels earlier on Wednesday. Member states did not oppose the plans for a full withdrawal once the US has made its intentions clear earlier this week, partly because they cannot guarantee the security of their own forces without the presence of the US.
Minutes after Biden’s confirmation of the withdrawal plan, all Nato members, including the UK, put out a joint statement, confirming they would join in with an “orderly, coordinated, and deliberate” removal of troops alongside the US.
The alliance said that it had achieved a goal to “prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack us” but acknowledged also there was no good reason to stay on. “There is no military solution to the challenges Afghanistan faces,” Nato members said.
Biden visits Arlington National Cemetery after announcing Afghanistan troop withdrawal
Joe Biden just paid a visit to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where servicemembers who died fighting in America’s recent wars, including the war in Afghanistan, are buried.
The president laid a wreath in honor of those lost troops. He noted it is now difficult for him to visit a cemetery and not think of his late son Beau, who fought in Iraq and later died of brain cancer.
“Look at them all,” Biden said of the rows of headstones before him.
Asked by a reporter whether it was a difficult decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, Biden said it was not.
“To me, it was absolutely clear,” Biden said. “We went for two reasons: get rid of bin Laden and to end the safe haven. I never thought we were there to somehow unify … Afghanistan. It’s never been done.”
Joe Biden spoke with Barack Obama and George W Bush yesterday about his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, the White House press secretary said.
“While we are not going to read out private conversations, he values their opinions and wanted them both to hear directly from him about his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan,” Jen Psaki said on Twitter.
Biden mentioned his phone call with Bush in his speech formally announcing the troop withdrawal. The president did not mention his separate conversation with Obama, although Psaki has previously said the two men speak often.
Biden said that, despite their policy differences, he and Bush are “absolutely united in our respect and support” for the troops who have served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
It’s worth noting that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have not always seen eye to eye on the war in Afghanistan.
Biden opposed then-President Obama’s decision in 2009 to approve a troop surge to Afghanistan, a point that he repeatedly brought up on the campaign trail last year.
However, Biden also opposed launching the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, which Obama approved.
Obama applauds Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan
Barack Obama has released a statement praising Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
“President Biden has made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan,” the former president said.
Obama acknowledged there will be “very difficult challenges and further hardship ahead in Afghanistan,” and he urged the US to remain involved in diplomatic efforts to ensure the human rights of Afghan people.
“But after nearly two decades of putting our troops in harm’s way, it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily, and that it’s time to bring our remaining troops home,” Obama said.
“I support President Biden’s bold leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our standing around the world.”
The White house has released a readout of Joe Biden’s call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier today.
“They discussed their continued commitment to a strong bilateral partnership following the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and affirmed shared respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by American forces, alongside NATO allies and operational partners, as well as by the Afghan people and Afghan service members over the past two decades,” the White House said.
“President Biden emphasized that the United States will continue to support the Afghan people, including through continued development, humanitarian, and security assistance. President Biden and President Ghani reaffirmed their shared conviction that every effort should be made to achieve a political settlement so that the Afghan people can live in peace.”
Ghani said earlier today that he “respects” Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops, promising to help ensure a “smooth transition” as the drawdown begins.
“Afghanistan’s proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along, and for which the Afghan nation will forever remain grateful,” Ghani said on Twitter.
‘It’s time to end the forever war,’ Biden says of Afghanistan
Joe Biden offered assurances that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would be handled very carefully over the next several months.
“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely,” the president said. “And we’ll do it in full coordination with our allies and partners.”
Explaining his decision to withdraw all US troops, Biden noted there are servicemembers currently deployed in Afghanistan who were not alive when the September 11 attacks occurred.
Some servicemembers even have parents who served in the same war that they are now fighting, the president said.
“The war in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking,” Biden said. “It’s time to end the forever war.”
The president has now concluded his prepared remarks. He is next scheduled to visit Arlington National Cemetery to pay his respects to some of the servicemembers who died in Afghanistan.
Joe Biden argued the original reasons for the deployment of US troops to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks no longer apply.
“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” the president said.
Biden added, “We’ll be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors in the long term if we fight the battles of the next 20 years, not the last 20.”
The president acknowledged some people disagreed with his decision to withdraw all US troops because, despite the widespread desire to end the war, there were lingering doubts that now was the right time to leave.
“When will it be the right moment to leave?” Biden asked. “One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?”
Joe Biden said he spoke to former president George W Bush yesterday about his decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September.
Despite their policy differences, Biden said he and Bush are “absolutely united in our respect and support” for the service members who have been deployed to Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
The president said the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan will begin in May and wrap up by September 11, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
‘It’s time for American troops to come home,’ Biden says in Afghanistan speech
Joe Biden is now delivering a speech on his plan to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan in the Treaty Room of the White House.
Biden said his many visits to Afghanistan over the past two decades, including as vice-president to Barack Obama, had convinced him that “only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country”.
The president noted the US originally deployed troops to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, to ensure the country could not again be used as a launchpad to attack America.
“We did that. We accomplished that objective,” Biden said.
It has now been ten years since Osama Bin Laden was killed, the president noted, and the terrorist threat has evolved greatly in the decade since his death.
“Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan have become increasingly unclear,” Biden said. “It’s time for American troops to come home.”