Biden says decision to withdraw from Afghanistan ‘absolutely clear’

President Biden Walks through Arlington Cemetery
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President Biden said Wednesday that his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 of this year was not a difficult one, calling it “absolutely clear.”

“To me, it was absolutely clear. Absolutely clear. We went for two reasons: the end of Bin Laden and the end of safe haven,” Biden told reporters during a brief visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday. “From the very beginning, you may recall, I never thought we were there to somehow unify Iraq. Excuse me, Afghanistan. It’s never been done.”

Biden spent about 10 minutes at Arlington National Cemetery, where he paid respects to U.S. service members who lost their lives in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The visit came shortly after Biden laid out his plans to bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which would formally end America’s longest war.

“I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again. We did that, we accomplished that objective,” Biden said. “I’ve concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.”

Biden’s decision has divided lawmakers, with Republicans pushing back forcefully and some Democrats raising concerns that the move could pave the way for instability in the region. Progressives have hailed the decision and former President Obama on Wednesday said it was the right thing to do.

Biden during his speech reflected on the human cost of the 19-year war, in which more than 2,300 U.S. troops have died. While at the cemetery, Biden marveled at the number of women and men who are prepared to sacrifice their lives in war and mentioned his late son, Beau Biden, who fought in Iraq as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.

“I have trouble these days ever showing up at a cemetery not thinking of my son, Beau, who proudly insisted on putting on that uniform and going with his unit to Iraq and giving up his spot as attorney general in the state of Delaware because he thought it was the right thing to do,” Biden said.

The trip was Biden’s second to Arlington cemetery as president. He and Vice President Harris also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony there after their inauguration in January.

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