April 14 (UPI) — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, saying “it is time to end America’s longest war.”
Biden formally spoke on the decision one day after media outlets reported on his plans.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” he said in remarks from the White House Treaty Room.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
The Sept. 11 deadline marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that precipitated the war in Afghanistan. Senior administration officials said Tuesday it’s possible all U.S. troops could be out of the country before then.
Biden’s deadline extends the May 2021 deadline previously set by the Trump administration to remove the estimated 2,500 troops from Afghanistan.
After his remarks Wednesday, Biden visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the location where many troops killed in Afghanistan are buried.
“I’m always amazed at generation after generation, women and men who are prepared to give their lives for their country,” Biden told reporters at the cemetery.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday he “fully” supports the withdrawal.
“We will look to continue funding key capabilities such as the Afghan air force and special mission wing, and we will seek to continue paying salaries for Afghan security forces,” he said during an appearance at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reiterated his opposition to a full withdrawal Wednesday.
“With all due respect to President Biden, you have not ended the war, you’ve extended it,” he said during a news conference on Capitol Hill. “You have made it bigger, not smaller.”
Sen. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., also disagreed with the decision, saying that announcing a timeline puts American troops at risk of an attack.
“Now I’m not sure why the White House has selected [Sept. 11], but I can tell you that that is a huge victory, a huge propaganda victory for the Taliban, for al-Qaida,” she told reporters. “The notion that on the day that they attacked us, we are going to mark that anniversary by withdrawing our forces?”