Biden announces withdrawal from Afghanistan in speech heavy on symbolism

“We went to Afghanistan because of a terrible attack 20 years ago,” said Biden. “That can’t explain why we should stay there in 2021.”

Biden’s address was given from the treaty room, the same area where then-President George W. Bush announced that the military had launched air strikes that marked the beginning of the US war in Afghanistan.

Biden said he spoke with Bush on Tuesday about the decision, a show of respect for the former president and the office that would have been almost unthinkable under President Donald Trump, who seemed to enjoy denigrating his predecessors.

“We are absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage and integrity of the women and men in the United States Armed Forces who have served,” said Biden.

However, he did not specifically say whether Bush supported the decision. Former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president for eight years, hailed Wednesday’s announcement as “the right decision,” while acknowledging the challenges that were emerging.

“But after nearly two decades of putting our troops in danger, it is time to realize that we have achieved all we can militarily and that it is time to bring our remaining troops home” Obama said in a statement. “I support President Biden’s courageous leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our standing around the world.”

After the speech, Biden left for Arlington National Cemetery to visit the burial site dedicated to those who served in Afghanistan as well as other recent conflicts.

“There is no comforting distance in history in section 60,” he said at the White House. “The grief is raw. It’s a visceral reminder of the cost of living in war. “

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