Biden announces plan to end America's longest war

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III, Melissa Mahtani and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT) April 15, 2021
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1:45 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

How Congress is reacting to Biden's decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

President Biden's decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 — the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — prompted a split on Capitol Hill among both Republicans and Democrats, creating some strange bedfellows over what to do about America's longest war.

Many Republicans slammed the decision as premature, but other GOP lawmakers cheered US troops finally coming home. Most Democrats said they supported Biden's desire to finally wind down the longest war in US history, but some said they were concerned about losing hard-fought gains in Afghanistan.

What some Republicans are saying:

Republican hawks responded with swift condemnation.
"Precipitously withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the prior administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, another hawk who repeatedly criticized the Obama administration's withdrawal from Iraq and drawdowns in Afghanistan, said a full withdrawal was "dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous."
"President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11," Graham said.
And Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was "outrageous" and had no justification.
But some Republicans who have joined McConnell in attacking Biden on multiple fronts had a different view -- even beyond libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who fought his GOP colleagues while he pushed Trump to remove US troops from the Middle East.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said Tuesday he was "glad the troops are coming home."

What some Democrats are saying:

On the Democratic side, there was plenty of praise for Biden's decision from lawmakers long skeptical of an extended US presence in the Middle East.
"For nearly 20 years, we have adopted a costly war-based approach to national security and counterterrorism policy with no clear endgame," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. "While our withdrawal comes years late, President Biden recognizes the reality that our continued presence there does not make the US or the world safer."
But some Democrats said they had concerns about prematurely withdrawing from the country and losing the gains that had been made, particularly when it comes to women's rights in Afghanistan.
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a longtime advocate of Afghan women's rights, said on Twitter Tuesday she was "very disappointed in @POTUS' decision to set a Sept. deadline to walk away from Afghanistan."
"Although this decision was made in coordination w/our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future," the New Hampshire senator wrote. "It undermines our commitment to the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women."
Top national security Democrats said they supported the decision, but they acknowledged the risks it carried.
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez of New Jersey, told reporters Tuesday he wants to get troops home after a very long war, but is worried "we don't lose what we were seeking to achieve."
1:17 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

White House: US will “have what is needed to secure a diplomatic presence" in Afghanistan

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not detail how may, if any, special operation troops would remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops, but did say the US will “have what is needed to secure a diplomatic presence.” Psaki said those assessments will be made over the coming months by the Defense and State Departments in coordination.

“This will require a diplomatic solution and even as we are withdrawing our troops, we will continue to support diplomatic and humanitarian work. We will ask other countries to step up,” Psaki said, responding to CNN’s Phil Mattingly at Wednesday’s White House press briefing.

A senior administration official previously said some troops will remain in the country to provide diplomatic security, though the exact number had not yet been decided.

There are also several hundred US special operations forces in Afghanistan that often work for the CIA on counter terrorism missions. Those troops are not publicly acknowledged and are not part of the formal calculation of 2,500 troops in the country. It’s not immediately clear what will happen to those individuals.

1:29 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Afghan president says he spoke to Biden and "respects" US decision to withdraw troops 

From CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh in Kabul, Afghanistan

Rahmat Gul/AP
Rahmat Gul/AP

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said he spoke to President Biden and that he “respects the U.S. decision” to withdraw forces from his country.

“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 Wednesday.

Biden is due to announce within hours that American troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending 20 years of military involvement in the country in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

1:28 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Here's what we know about Biden's announcement today on Afghanistan

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden is expected to formally announce his decision today to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that led the US into its longest war.

"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," Biden will say in his remarks, scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET.

"I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats," he will say. "I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth."

In a sign he views his remarks as a historic bookend to the prolonged conflict, he will deliver them from precisely the same spot in the White House Treaty Room that President George W. Bush announced the start of the war on Oct. 7, 2001.

Afterward, he'll visit the section of Arlington National Cemetery where many of America's war dead from Afghanistan are buried.

Biden will say in his speech that American diplomatic and humanitarian efforts will continue in Afghanistan and would support peace efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But he'll be unequivocal that two decades after it began, the Afghanistan war is ending.

"It is time to end America's longest war. It is time for American troops to come home," he'll say.

The deadline Biden has set is absolute, with no potential for extension based on worsening conditions on the ground. Officials said after two decades of war, it was clear to the President that throwing more time and money at Afghanistan's problems wasn't going to work. Some US troops will remain to protect Americans diplomats, though officials declined to provide a precise number.

Biden has spent months weighing his decision, and determined a war in Afghanistan that killed some 2,300 troops and cost more than $2 trillion no longer fit within the pressing foreign policy concerns of 2021.

Read more about Biden's remarks here.