President Biden today announced he is ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
"It is time to end America's longest war," he said during a televised address. "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth."
The United States officially has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, but there are about 1,000 additional special forces personnel there as well.
Biden said the troop drawdown will begin May 1 and be complete by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack that triggered the longest armed conflict in American history.
"We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result," he said.
Biden pledged "significant humanitarian and development assistance" to Afghanistan and its military, with plans to support continued peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
Biden noted U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden 10 years ago.
"Think about that," he said. "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've accomplished that objective."
Biden said keeping thousands of U.S. troops massed in Afghanistan made little sense since the threat of transnational terrorism has spread across the globe.
"With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes no sense to me and our leaders," he said.
Biden said he has ordered a reorganization of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities.
"We will not take our eye off the terrorist threat," he said.
Biden's decision is opposed by many lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who has called it "reckless."
But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) released a statement supporting the president's decision, saying the United States "cannot wait for the perfect security conditions" to begin withdrawing troops.
"Our goal in the region has always been to prevent transnational terrorists from launching an attack against the United States or our allies, but there are other means to monitor that threat and manage risk and, at this point, the cost and risk of a continued troop presence -- both U.S. troops and those of our allies -- outweigh the benefits," Smith said.
Biden, during his speech, said he carries a card in his pocket with the updated numbers of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. As of today, he said, 2,488 U.S. troops and personnel have died in the conflict, while 20,722 have been wounded.
"War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking," he said. "It's time to end the forever war."