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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3:07 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Obama praises Biden's "bold leadership" on Afghanistan withdrawal

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak

Former President Barack Obama praised President Biden’s “bold leadership” for his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, calling it “the right decision.”

"President Biden has made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Today, we should pause to pay tribute to the extraordinary sacrifices of the Americans who have served in our longest war, as well as their families," a statement from Obama said.

“After nearly two decades of putting our troops in harm’s way, it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily, and that it’s time to bring our remaining troops home. I support President Biden’s bold leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our standing around the world,” Obama continued in the statement.

Echoing similar themes from Biden's remarks, the former President said the US should be focusing on other global challenges.

"Since we began to draw down U.S. forces in 2011, the United States made clear to the Afghan government that we would be gradually transitioning responsibility for security while creating time and space for efforts to improve governance and pursue diplomacy. Nearly a decade later, it is time to turn the page to the next chapter of our relationship with Afghanistan. There will be very difficult challenges and further hardship ahead in Afghanistan, and the U.S. must remain engaged diplomatically and through our development efforts to support the Afghan people, particularly those who have taken extraordinary risks on behalf of human rights," Obama wrote.

Some more context: As CNN has previously reported, Biden argued ardently to Obama that troops should be drawn down in 2009. He even wrote a long memo and faxed it to Obama from his Thanksgiving vacation on Nantucket. His views went unheeded and that brush-off stuck with Biden over the years. Now, Obama is praising Biden's "bold leadership" in finally pulling troops out.

2:50 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden: "We will not take our eye off the terrorist threat"

Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP
Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP

While announcing his decision to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, President Biden made clear that the US would "not take our eye off the terrorist threat," in Afghanistan or elsewhere across the globe.

"US troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on Sept. 11. but we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat," Biden said.

"We will reorganize our counter-terrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of terrorist threat to our homeland over the horizon. We'll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorist to threaten the United States or its allies on Afghan soil. The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well, and we'll focus our full attention on the threat we face today."

"In my direction, my team is refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant threats anywhere where they may arise, whether in Africa, Europe, Middle East and elsewhere," he added.

3:06 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden: Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we must focus on "challenges that are in front of us"

Following his announcement to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, President Biden said it is now time the US focus on other priorities abroad.

"We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," he said.

The President noted that these other priorities include China and strengthening global health communications to prepare for possible future pandemics.

"Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us. We have to track and disrupt terrorist networks and operations that spread far beyond Afghanistan since 9/11. We have to shore up American competitiveness to face the stiff competition from an increasingly assured China," the President said.

"We have to defeat this pandemic and strengthen global health systems to prepare for the next one, because there will be another pandemic. We will be much more formidable to our adversaries and competitors in the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20," Biden continued.

2:49 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden told former President Bush about decision to withdraw troops

President Joe Biden said he talked with former President George W. Bush on Tuesday to tell him about his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in May.

"While he and I have had many disagreements over policy throughout the years, we're absolutely united in our respect and support to the valor, courage and integrity of the women and men of the United States armed forces who have served," Biden said.

The President also thanked those in the armed forces for their service, saying, "I have witnessed their bravery firsthand during my visits to Afghanistan. They have never wavered in their resolve."

"I'm immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments. We as a nation are forever indebted to them and to their families," Biden added.

2:47 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden vows to continue supporting Afghan women after US troop withdrawal

Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP
Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP

President Biden addressed concerns raised over women's rights in Afghanistan and what may happen to progress made once the US withdraws its troops.

"We'll continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls by maintaining significant humanitarian and development assistance," Biden said today during a speech. "We will ask other countries in the region do to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey. They always have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan. Over the next few months, we will also determine what a continued US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like."

Not everyone agrees on withdrawal: Among those advocating against a withdrawal, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been among the most ardent, suggesting earlier in the deliberations that pulling American troops from Afghanistan could cause the government in Kabul to collapse and prompt backsliding in women's rights, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Other lawmakers warned that this decision could lead to civil war and the loss of rights for women and minorities in that country that were gained over 20 years of war.

“I’ve been to funerals of a more than a few Delawareans who died in the conflict and felt the pain of their parents, spouses, siblings, children. So, the idea of walking away is not an easy thing to accept,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware and former Naval officer who served multiple tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. “It’s almost a no-win situation. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Carper called on the administration to provide a full classified briefing to lawmakers so defense, national security, and diplomatic officials can be pressed on the impact of the withdrawal.  

2:45 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden: Our reasons to remain in Afghanistan have "become increasingly unclear"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP
Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP

President Biden said that the reason for US troops to remain in Afghanistan are becoming "increasingly unclear" during his remarks about withdrawing troops from the country.

Biden said since he visited Afghanistan as vice president, he's believed that only "the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country."

"I believed our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason why we went in the first place, to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack or homeland again. We did that. We accomplished that objective. I said, among with others, we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, if need be. That's exactly what we did, and we got him," Biden said.

Biden noted that Osama bin Laden was killed 10 years ago and yet troops remain in the region despite the fight against terrorism evolving.

"We delivered justice to Bin Laden a decade ago, and we've stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since. Since then, our reasons to remain in Afghanistan become increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved," the President said.

2:50 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will start on May 1, Biden says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP
Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP

President Biden said the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will begin on May 1. There will be a a full withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"I've concluded it's time to end America's longest war. It's time for American troops to come home," Biden said.

"We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We'll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do. The Taliban should know, that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal," he said.

A May 1 deadline was set by the Trump administration in an agreement with the Taliban.

2:38 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Biden: "I've concluded it's time to end America's longest war"

President Biden was emphatic that he will end "America's longest war" in Afghanistan in the next few weeks.

"I'm now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth," Biden said today from the Roosevelt Room. "I've concluded it's time to end America's longest war. It's time for American troops to come home."
2:31 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Happening now: Biden delivers remarks on his plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

From CNN's Kevin Liptak


President Biden is addressing the nation from the White House Treaty Room about his administration's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, to end America's longest war on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It's the same room where former George W. Bush announced Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, the start of the war.

The operation was launched to stop the Taliban from providing a safe haven to al Qaeda and to stop al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.

"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 today, according to excerpts released by the White House.

"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," the President will say.

After his remarks, Biden will visit the section of Arlington National Cemetery where many of America's war dead from Afghanistan are buried.