President says 90% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan have done so
President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline.
“Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives,” Mr. Biden told the nation during an address televised from the White House. “The bottom line is that there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kind of complexities, challenges and threats that we faced. None.”
He also said, “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.”
President Biden has faced bipartisan criticism for how the evacuation was handled, particularly its sequence. Critics have said Americans, Afghan allies and military equipment should have been all withdrawn before U.S. troops left.
Polls have shown Americans agreeing with the decision to leave Afghanistan after a nearly 20-year war, the longest one in U.S. history, but disagreeing with how the Biden administration carried out the withdrawal.
During his address, President Biden said 90% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan did so and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will continue to work to bring the rest home.
“For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” President Biden said. “We remain committed to get them out.”
He said 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan.
“Most of those who remain are dual citizens, longtime residents who earlier decided to stay because of family roots in Afghanistan,” President Biden said.
He added that the U.S. evacuated thousands of citizens and diplomats from the nations that joined America in efforts to capture Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil. The terrorist was captured and killed by U.S. forces in 2011 in Pakistan.
President Biden went into some detail about the evacuations for allies who helped the U.S.
“We got out locally employed staff of the United States embassy, totalling roughly 2,500 people,” President Biden said. “We got out thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States as well.”
Questions have been raised about the status of allies working for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a federally funded agency that operates Voice of America. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said efforts continue to get them out of Afghanistan.
On Monday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling on the Taliban to allow people in Afghanistan the freedom to leave the nation.
Secretary Blinken said he will hold the Taliban to their promise to let authorized people leave Afghanistan.
The 20-year war in Afghanistan cost the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service members and more than 47,000 civilians, according to the Cost of Wars project at Brown University.
Information in this story is based on national media reports and a televised broadcast of President Biden’s speech.