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Biden defends his decision in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Tuesday hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of the Kabul evacuation as he vehemently defended his decision to end the US war in Afghanistan, just a day after it ended rescuing 125,000 people from Kabul over two weeks. which saw the death of 13 soldiers.

Speaking from the Cross Hall of the White House, Mr Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died during the evacuation mission.

“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said in a speech in which he did not apologize either for his decision to end the war or for the way his administration carried out this mission. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that we can never repay, but we should never, never, never forget. “

Mr Biden appeared determined to forcefully reject criticism of the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, offering a defensive account of his decision-making and accusing former President Donald J. Trump of negotiating a bad deal with the Taliban who locked up Mr. Biden and his team.

“It was the choice, the real choice between leaving or stepping up,” Biden said, his angry and defensive tone as he opened the opening minutes of his remarks. “I was not going to prolong this war forever.”

Prior to Mr. Biden’s speech, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the president would “outline his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made. has taken in the last seven months since taking office. to end the war, ”she said. “He will make it clear that as President, he will approach our foreign policy through the lens of what is in our national interest, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe.”

Ms Psaki also said the president would thank the commanders and the military “who carried out a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted over 124,000 people to safety; he will also thank the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort.

The president delivered his remarks nearly 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban from power in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and just a day after the last remaining American soldiers and diplomats left the country, which is at again under Taliban rule.

Mr Biden ostensibly did not announce on Monday that the last transport plane carrying US forces had left Afghanistan, leaving that to Pentagon officials who briefed reporters after the plane left Afghan airspace. On Sunday, he declined to answer a question about Afghanistan from a journalist following his trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the transfer of the remains of 13 US servicemen killed in a Kabul airport bombing last week, the last American casualties of the war.

Mr Biden’s speech comes as White House officials hope to end a difficult episode for his presidency and instead focus on ongoing national crises – including the ongoing Delta variant wave of the pandemic of Covid-19 and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s destructive trajectory across the Gulf Coast.

The president is also expected to pivot in the days and weeks to come to pushing Congress next month to pass key provisions of the president’s multibillion-dollar economic agenda, including significant spending on infrastructure and services. social.

For more than two weeks, the precipitous departure of troops from Afghanistan, chaos and violence around the airport diverted the White House from the president’s national agenda.

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