Thursday Jul 08, 2021
WASHINGTON: United States President Joe Biden on Thursday said it is up to the Afghan people alone how they run their country, as he announced the US military mission in Afghanistan will end on Aug 31 despite new concerns about the possibility of a civil war.
"We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build," Biden said. "It's the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country."
Biden delivered his most extensive comments to date about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan under pressure from critics to give more explanation for his decision to withdraw.
Biden also said the US plans to move thousands of Afghan interpreters out of the country in anticipation of the end of the US military mission in the country on August 31.
The United States last weekend abandoned Bagram airbase, the longtime staging ground for US military operations in the country, effectively ending America's longest war. The Pentagon says the withdrawal of US forces is 90% complete.
Washington agreed to withdraw in a deal negotiated last year under Biden's Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden overruled military leaders who wanted to keep a larger presence to assist Afghan security forces and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a staging ground for extremist groups.
Instead, the United States plans to leave 650 troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the US Embassy.
Biden's order in April to pull out US forces by September 11 after 20 years of conflict has coincided with major gains by the militant Taliban movement against overwhelmed Afghan forces after peace talks sputtered.
The commander of US troops in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, warned last week that the country may be headed toward civil war.