The war began two decades ago, the president argued, not to rebuild a distant nation but to prevent terror attacks like the one on Sept. 11, 2001 and to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. In essence, Mr. Biden said the longest war in United States history should have ended a decade ago, when Bin Laden was killed.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” he said. “And it’s the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks even as the democratic government in Kabul teeters under a Taliban siege that has displaced tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and allowed the insurgent group to capture much of the country.
The rapid American withdrawal, he said, was a matter of safety.
“Our military commanders advised me that once I made the decision to end the war, we needed to move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown,” Mr. Biden said. “And in this context, speed is safety.”
In an effort to provide limited reassurance to the Afghan government, he said the American mission to help defend the country would continue through Aug. 31, though most combat troops have already left, leaving a force of under 1,000 to defend the American embassy and the country’s airport.
At another time in the country’s history, Mr. Biden’s speech, and the final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, might have roiled politics in the United States.
But at a moment when Americans are still fighting Covid, searching for a way out of 18 months of economic disruption, and struggling with racial tension and political division, there is almost no debate about the wisdom of the drawdown among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Polls show that large numbers of Americans in both parties support leaving Afghanistan.