In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden recognised the end of a “forever war” in Afghanistan after the last American troops departed from Kabul on Monday night, marking the beginning of the end of the nation’s longest war.
He defended the evacuation effort, in which thousands of people were lifted out of Kabul in recent weeks, as an “extraordinary success” due to the “incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.”
The end of the nation’s longest war – in which nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians, 2,500 US service members, and thousands of Afghan military, police and Taliban fighters were killed – included the deaths of at least 13 US service members and an estimated 170 Afghan civilians after a terror attack claimed by Isis-K.
The president said he does not believe mass evacuations from Kabul should have started sooner, arguing that any announcement prior to an approaching withdrawal date could have sparked a “rush to the airport.”
“I take responsibility for the decision,” he said.
He added: “Imagine if we began evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a break down in confidence and control of the government and still would have been very difficult and dangerous mission.”
“The bottom line is there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced,” he said. “None.”
He also stressed that for Americans who remained beyond the 31 August withdrawal deadline, “there is no deadline.”
“We remain committed to get them out, if they want to come out,” he said.
At home, the president has approved federal disaster aid and dispatched emergency response in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s devastation across southeast Louisiana, where thousands of homes were damaged by the now-dissipated storm, leaving more than 1 million homes without power.
The president pledged the federal government to “stand with you and the people of the Gulf as long as it takes for you to recover,” he said on Monday.
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Biden to deliver remarks on Afghanistan withdrawal
The president will address the nation to affirm his commitment to withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan by a 31 August deadline.
He will deliver remarks at 2.45pm EST.
In a statement on Monday, he said: “I will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31. For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.”
National security adviser ‘committed’ to getting out remaining Americans
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday that the US “will get out any person who wants to get out,” as an estimated 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan and want to leave, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We continue our mission to get them out, it’s just that it has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission,” Mr Sullivan said. “The small number that remain, we are committed to getting out and we will work through every available diplomatic means with the enormous leverage that we have and that the international community has to make that happen.”
Between 5,500 and 6,000 Americans were evacuated, while those who remain were contacted “repeatedly” to make their way to the airport or point of contact, he said.
Last US forces leave Afghanistan, bringing an end to a 20-year war launched in aftermath of September 11 attacks
America’s longest war cost the lives of nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians, 2,500 US service members, 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 457 British armed forces personnel, and 50,000 Taliban and opposition fighters.
It was a war overseen by four US presidents, fought by two generations of Americans, and at a cost of an estimated $2 trillion. It ended with the defeat of a superpower by an army of guerrilla fighters, and the collapse of a decades-long state-building project in a matter of days.
The Independent’s Richard Hall on the beginning of the end of the 20-year war:
‘Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,’ President Joe Biden says in statement
Senate approves bill to provide assistance to Americans returning from Afghanistan
With Kamala Harris presiding, the US Senate quickly passed the Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act without objections.
The measure would the Social Security Act to set up financial aid for repatriating Americans, setting aside up to $10m over the next two years.
Biden is expected to sign it into law.
Pentagon tweets photo of Maj Gen Christopher Donahue, the last US soldier to leave Afghanistan
Maj Gen Christopher Donahue, photographed through a night-vision lens preparing to board a C-17 cargo, was identified by the Pentagon as officially the last US service member to leave Afghanistan.
As the US troops left Kabul airport, the Taliban celebrated with gunfire
‘Please, please help’: How I witnessed the Afghanistan war’s bitter end
After decades of reporting from Afghanistan, Kim Sengupta reflects on at the west’s string of failures and the dark, uncertain future facing those left behind:
After decades of reporting from Afghanistan, Kim Sengupta reflects on at the west’s string of failures and the dark, uncertain future facing those left behind
Biden to discuss ‘tough decisions’ during administration leading to war’s end, White House says
White House press secretary Jen Psaki will address reporters at 3.30pm EST following Biden’s remarks at 2.45pm.
His speech will “express his thanks to the commanders and service members who executed a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted more than 124,000 people to safety” and “offer thanks to the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort,” she said in a statement.
Biden will also “lay out his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made over the last seven months since he took office to bring the war to a close.”
“He will make clear that as President, he will approach our foreign policy through the prism of what is in our national interests, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe,” she said.
Rep Peter Meijer wants America to stop believing its own foreign policy propaganda
Republican Rep Peter Meijer of Michigan is worried that the United States could repeat its mistakes in Afghanistan – if it continues believing its own foreign policy propaganda.
“I think one of the reasons why the past couple of weeks of Afghanistan have been such a shock to some and such a disappointing confirmation to others is because of that disconnect between reality and how that reality is projected,” he told The Independent.
Eric Garcia has more:
The freshman Republican also defended his trip to Afghanistan and stopped short of calling for Biden’s resignation or impeachment
Facebook to de-emphasise political posts on news feed in move that could diminish right-wing media influence
Facebook’s “news feed” will feed less news to its users under a plan to de-emphasise content considered too political or too current.
The company confirmed in a blog post it would expand its trial to scale back breaking news and political content in and beyond the United States after receiving “positive feedback” on the changes.
The move was first reported by Axios, which said the changes could reduce traffic to news publishers or accounts that post too much political content, based on negative user feedback.
Justin Vallejo has more:
Changes will reduce traffic to news publishers on the platform, which is dominated by conservative outlets like Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire.
Group of Republican-led states sue Biden over anti-discrimination protections for transgender workers
A group of GOP attorneys general have filed a federal lawsuit in Tennessee seeking to overturn guidance from the Biden administration that expands anti-discrimination protections to LGBT+ people.
In 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot fire workers because of their gender identity or sexuality. In June, the Education Department issued guidance informed by the ruling to protect students and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlined what discrimination consists of and how to file complaints, part of a range of protections under the Biden administration that aimed at combatting discrimination in schools.
The attorneys general argued that the administration overreached, and that the authority to draw up those rules lies with local governments and Congress.
“The guidance purports to resolve highly controversial and localized issues such as whether employers and schools may maintain sex-separated showers and locker rooms, whether schools must allow biological males to compete on female athletic teams, and whether individuals may be compelled to use another person’s preferred pronouns,” according to the lawsuit filed on Monday.
“But the agencies have no authority to resolve those sensitive questions, let alone to do so by executive fiat without providing any opportunity for public participation,” it says.
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