Addressing the nation, a defensive President Biden on Tuesday called the US military airlift to extract more than 120,000 Afghans, Americans, and other allies to end a 20-year war an "extraordinary success," though more than 100 Americans and thousands of Afghans looking to leave remain in the country. Twenty-four hours after the departure of the last American C-17 cargo plane from Kabul, Biden vigorously defended his decision to end America's longest war and withdraw all US troops ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline, the AP reports. "I was not going to extend this forever war,” Biden said in an address from the White House State Dining Room. "And I was not going to extend a forever exit."
Biden said the US government had reached out 19 times since March—prior to his public announcement that he was going to end the US war—to encourage all American citizens in Afghanistan to leave. He acknowledged that 100 to 200 were unable to get out when the airlift ended Monday. Biden asserted that his administration was ready when the US -backed government in Kabul collapsed in mid-August and the Taliban took over. The last Air Force transport plane departed Kabul one minute before midnight Monday, raising questions about why Biden didn't continue the airlift for at least another day. He had set Tuesday as a deadline for ending the evacuation and withdrawing the last US troops.
Biden has faced tough questions about the way the US went about leaving Afghanistan—a chaotic evacuation and spasms of violence including a suicide bomb that killed 13 American service members and 169 Afghans. But he said it was inevitable that the final departure from two decades of war would be difficult with likely violence, no matter when it was planned and conducted. "To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan I ask, ‘What is the vital national interest?’" Biden said. He added, "I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan.”
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