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tv   President Biden on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan  CSPAN  August 31, 2021 5:03pm-5:32pm EDT

5:03 pm is the c-span store. there's a collection of products, browse to see what is new. your support will support our nonprofit operations and you can still order the directorate with contact permission for congress and administration. go to >> president biden made remarks on the end of the afghanistan war today, marking the deadline to remove u.s. troops from the country. the u.s. military airlifted over 120,000 people out of afghanistan in the final days of the conflict.
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pres. biden: -- that is on was double more than what people thought possible. no nation has ever done it in history. the united states had the capacity, will and the ability to do it and we did it today. they externally success of this mission was due to the credible skill -- incredible skill, bravely and -- of the military, diplomats and intelligence professionals. american citizens, afghan to help those, citizens of our allies and partners and others, on board planes and out of the country. and they did it facing the crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. and they did it knowing isis-k terrorists, sworn enemies of the taliban, were lurking in the midst of those crowds. still, the women and men of the
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united states military, our diplomatic corps and intelligence professionals did their job and did it well. risking their lives, not for professional gain, but to serve others. not in a mission of war, but a mission of mercy. 20 service numbers were wounded in this mission. 13 heroes give their lives. i was at dover air force base with a dignified transfer. we owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never ever forget. in april, i made a decision to end this war. part of that decision, we set the date of august that he first for american troops to withdraw. the assumption was that more than 300,000 afghan national security forces that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a
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strong adversary in the civil wars with the taliban. that assumption that the afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown, turned out not to be accurate. but i still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality, and that is what we did. so we were ready when the afghan security forces, after two decades of fighting for their country, and losing thousands of their own, did not hold on as long as anyone expected. we were ready when they come up the people of afghanistan, watched their own government collapse in their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their elegant dutch enemy, the taliban and it significantly increasing the risk to u.s. personnel and our allies. as a result, to safely extract
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american citizens before august 31, as well as embassy personnel, allies and partners, and those afghans who had worked with us and fought alongside of us for 20 years, we authorized 6000 american troops to gobble to help secure the airport. as general mckenzie said, this is the way the mission was designed. it was designed to operate under severe stress and attack. and that is what it did. since march, we reached out 19 times to americans in afghanistan with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave. all the way back as far as march. after we started the evacuation 17 days ago. , we did initial outreach and
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analysis and identified around 5000 americans who had decided earlier to stay in afghanistan but now wanted to leave. our operation ally rescue ended up getting more than 5500 americans out. we got out thousands of citizens and diplomats from those countries that went to afghanistan with us and get bin laden. we got out locally employed staff of the united states embassy in their families, totaling roughly 2500 people. we got thousands of afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the united states out as well. now we believe that about 100 to 200 americans remain in afghanistan, with some intention to leave. most of those who remain are dual citizens, longtime
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residents who early decided to stay because of their family roots in afghanistan. the bottom line, 90% of americans in afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. for many americans, there is no deadline. we remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. secretary of state blinken is leading the continued diplomacy to ensure safe passage for any american, afghan partner or foreign national who wants to leave afghanistan. just yesterday, the united nations security council passed the resolution that sent a clear message to both the internet -- of what the international community expects the taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel, freedom to leave. together we are joined i over 100 countries who are determined
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to make sure the taliban upholds those commitments. it will include ongoing efforts in afghanistan to reopen the airport as well as overland groups allowing for continued departure, and we are going to deliver medicare and assistance and people of afghanistan. the taliban has made public commitments broadcast on television and radio across afghanistan -- for anyone wanting to live, including those who worked alongside americans. we don't take them by their word alone, but by their actions. and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met. let me be clear. leaving august the 31st is not due to a deadline. it was designed to save american lives.
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my predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the taliban to remove u.s. troops made the first, just months after i was inaugurated. an included no requirement that the taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the afghan government, but it did authorize the release of 5000 prisoners last year, including some of the taliban's top war commanders, among those who just took control of afghanistan. by the time i came to office, the taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001. controlling or -- nearly half the country. the previous administration's agreement said that if we stuck to the may 1 deadline they had signed on to leave by, the taliban would not attack any american forces. but if we stayed, all bets were
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off. so we were left with a simple decision. either follow through on the commitment made by the last of ministration and leave afghanistan, or say we weren't leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. that was the choice, the real choice. between leaving or escalating. i was not going to extend this forever war. and i was not extending a forever exit. the decision to and the military lift operations at kabul airport was based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors. the secretary of state, secretary of defense, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and all the service chiefs, commanders in the field. their recommendation was that
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the safest way to secure the passage of the meaning americans and others through the country was not to continue a 6000 troops on the ground in harm's way in kabul, but rather to get them out through nonmilitary means. in the 17 days that we operated in kabul, after the taliban seized power, we engaged in an around-the-clock effort to provide every american the opportunity to leave. our state department was working 24/7, contacting and talking and in some cases walking americans into the airport. again, more than 5500 americans were airlifted out, and for those who remain, we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose. as for the afghans, we and our
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partners have airlifted 100,000 of them. no country in history has done more to airlift out the residence of another country than we have done. we will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. we are far from done. for now, i urge all americans to join me in grateful prayer for our troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this mission of mercy in kabul and a tremendous risk with such unparalleled results. and airlift that evacuated tens of thousands. to a network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide the to the airport and provide them for their support along the
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way. we are going to continue to need their help. we need your help, and i'm looking forward to meeting with you. and to everyone who is now offering, or who will offer to welcome afghan allies to their homes around the world, including in america, we thank you. i take responsibility for the decision. some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn't this have been done in a more orderly manner. i respectfully disagree. imagine if we had begun evacuations in june or july, earning thousands of american troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. there would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown of control of the government, and
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it 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 and threats we face, none. for those who say we should have stayed indefinitely, for years on end, they asked why don't we just keep doing what we were doing? why do we have to change anything? the fact is everything had changed. my predecessor had made a deal with the taliban. when i came to office, we faced a deadline, may 1. the taliban onslaught was coming. we faced one of two choices. follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend it to have more time for
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people to get out, or send an thousands of more troops and escalate the war. for those asking for third decade of war in afghanistan, i ask, what is the vital national interest? in my view, we only have one. to make sure afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland. remember why we went to afghanistan in the first place? because we were attacked by osama bin laden and al qaeda on september 11 2001. and they were based in afghanistan. we deliver justice to bin laden on may 2, 2011. over a decade ago. al qaeda was decimated.
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i respectfully suggest u.s. yourself this question. if we had been attacked on september 11, 2001 from yemen instead of afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in afghanistan? even though the taliban-controlled afghanistan in the year 2001? i believe the honest answer is no. that is because we had no vital interest in afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on america's homeland and our friends. and that is true today. we succeeded in what we set out to do in afghanistan over a decade ago. and we stayed for another decade. it was time to end this war. it's a new world. the terrorist threat has tested sized across the -- metastasized across the world.
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we face threats from somalia, al qaeda affiliates in syria and the new -- arabian peninsula, and isis attempting -- across africa and asia. the fundamental obligation of a president in my opinion is to defend and protect -- protect america. not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow. the guiding principle behind my decisions in afghanistan, i simply do not believe that the safety and security of america is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of american troops and spending billions of dollars of year -- the year in afghanistan, but i also know that the threat from terrorism continues and is pernicious and people in nature. but it changed.
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our strategy has to change, too. we will maintain the fight against terrorists in afghanistan and other countries. we just don't need to fight a ground war to do it. we have what is called over the horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists with -- boots on the ground and very you are needed. have shown the capacity in the last week. we struck isis-k remotely days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozens of any -- innocent afghans. to isis-k, we are not done with you yet. as commander in chief, i firmly believe the best path to guard our safety and our security --
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unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy. that goes after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago. that is what is in our national interests. and here is a critical thing to understand. the world is changing. we are in competition with china. we are dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with russia. we are confronted with cyber attacks and nuclear proliferation. we have to show our competitiveness to meet these new challenges in the competition for the 21st century. and we can do both. fight terrorism and take on new threats that are here now, and we will continue -- and will continue to be here the future. there's nothing china or russia rather have or want more in this competition than the united states to be bogged down another
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decade in afghanistan. as we turn the page on the foreign policy but has guided our nation the last two decades, we have got to learn from our mistakes. to me, there are two that are paramount. first, we must set missions with clear, achievable goals, not ones we will never reach. and second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of the united states. this decision about afghanistan is not just about afghanistan. it is about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. we saw a mission of counterterrorism and
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afghanistan, getting the terrorists to stop the attacks, morphed into a counterinsurgency . nationbuilding, trying to unite afghanistan, something that has never been done over many centuries of afghans history. moving on from that mindset and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home. and for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say clearly, to those who wish america harm, to those who engage with us or our allies, know this. the united states will never rest. we will not forgive, we will not forget. we will hunt you down to the ends of the earth and he will pay the ultimate price. and let me be clear.
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we will support the afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid, we will continue to push for diplomacy engagement to prevent violence and instability. we will continue to speak out for the basic rights of the afghan people, especially women and girls, as we speak out for women and girls all around the globe. and i have been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy, but the way to do that is not the in list military deployments. but through diplomacy, economic tools and rallying the rest of the world for support. my fellow americans, the war in afghanistan is now over. i am the fourth president who must take -- face the issue of whether and when to end this war. when i was running for president, i made a commitment to the american people that i would end this war.
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today, i have honored that commitment. it was time to be honest with the american people again. we no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in afghanistan. after 20 years of war in afghanistan, i refuse to send another generation of america's sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago. after more than $2 trillion spent in afghanistan, a cost that researchers at brown university estimated would be over $300 million a day in afghanistan two decades, yes, the american people need to hear this, $300 million a day for two decades. you take the number of one trillion as many say, that is still $150 million a day for two
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decades. what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunity? i refuse to continue a war that was no longer in service of the vital national interest of our people. but most of all, after 800,000 americans served in afghanistan, travel that whole country, brave and honorable service, after 20,744 american servicemen and women injured and the loss of 2400 61 american personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week, i refuse to open another decade of warfare in afghanistan. we have been a nation too long at war. if you are 20 years old today, you have never known in america at peace. so when i hear that we could have, should have continued the
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so-called low-grade effort in afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, i don't think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1% of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation. maybe it is because my deceased son oh served in iraq for a full year. before that, well. maybe it is because of what i've seen over the years as a senator, vice president and president traveling these countries. a lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell. deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families. missed birthdays, anniversaries, empty chairs at holidays, financial struggles, divorces,
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loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress. we see it in the struggles many have when they come home. we see it in the strain on their families and caregivers. we see the strain on their families when they are not there. we have seen the grief warned by their survivors. the cost of war they will carry with them their whole lives. most tragically, we see it in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war ever be low-grade, low risk or low cost. 18 veterans on average who die suicide every single day in america. not in a foreign place, but right here in america.
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there is nothing low-grade, low-risk, or low cost about any war. it is time to end the war in afghanistan. as we close 20 years of war, strife, pain and sacrifice, it is time to look at the future, not the past. the future that is safer, to a future that is more secure. to a future that honors those who served and all those who gave what president lincoln called their last full measure of devotion. i gave my word with all of my heart, i believe this is the right decision. a wise decision, and the best decision for america. thank you, thank you, and may god bless you all, and may god protect our troops.
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