WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan will end on Aug. 31, delivering an impassioned argument for exiting the nearly 20-year war without sacrificing more American lives even as he bluntly acknowledged there will be no “mission accomplished” moment to celebrate.
Biden pushed back against the notion the U.S. mission has failed but also noted that it remains unlikely the government would control all of Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves. He urged the Afghan government and Taliban, which he said remains as formidable as it was before the start of the war, to come to a peace agreement.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” Biden said in a speech from the White House’s East Room. “Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future.”
The administration in recent days has sought to frame ending the conflict as a decision that Biden made after concluding it’s an “unwinnable war” and one that “does not have a military solution.” On Thursday he amplified the justification of his decision even as the Taliban made rapid advances in significant swaths of the country.
“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the U.S. to extend the military operation. He added, “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
The new withdrawal date comes after former President Donald Trump’s administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban to end the U.S. military mission by May 1.
Biden after taking office announced U.S. troops would be out by by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, which al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden plotted from Afghanistan, where he had been given refuge by the Taliban.
There was growing speculation that U.S. combat operations have already effectively ended. But by setting Aug. 31 as the drawdown date, the administration nodded to the reality that the war is in its final phase, while providing some cushion to deal with outstanding matters.
The administration has yet to complete talks with Turkey on an arrangement for maintaining security at the Kabul airport and is still ironing out details for the potential evacuation of thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military operation.