US President defends pull out as Taliban claim major victory
US President Joe Biden has defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan - a move which led to Taliban militants returning to power.
Staying longer was not an option, Mr Biden said in an address to the nation, a day after the end of a 20-year US presence in Afghanistan.
He praised troops for organising an airlift of more than 120,000 people wishing to flee the Taliban regime.
The Islamist militants have been celebrating what they call a victory.
US-led troops went into Afghanistan in 2001, ousting the Taliban in the wake of the devastating 9/11 attacks, blamed on al-Qaeda — a militant jihadist group then based in the Asian country.
Biden has been widely criticised — at home and by his allies — over the abrupt manner of the US withdrawal, which led to the unexpected collapse of the Afghan security forces US troops had trained and funded for years.
Taliban militants were able to reclaim control of the whole country within 11 days — finally entering the capital, Kabul, on 15 August.
President Biden deployed nearly 6,000 troops to seize control of the airport to co-ordinate the evacuation of US and allied foreign nationals and local Afghans who had been working for them.
Thousands of people converged on Kabul International Airport in the hope of being able to board an evacuation flights.
In Tuesday’s address, Biden praised troops for the mass evacuation and promised to continue efforts to bring out those Americans who were still in Afghanistan and wanted to return — about 200 people altogether.
“A lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell,” he said. “Deployment after deployment.
Months and years away from their families loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress.”
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden said, adding: “The war in Afghanistan is now over.”
He said the US did not need troops on the ground to defend itself.
The president later said his decision was “not just about Afghanistan”. “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” he tweeted.
The US 20-year campaign in Afghanistan ended in tragedies and Washington achieved nothing, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, adding that the US army’s attempt to ingrain their norms in Afghanistan was futile.
Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting with teenagers in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok. - Agencies