US President Joe Biden has said that the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was the best available option for him to end to country’s longest military campaign, adding that the other option would be going back to war.
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” he said in a televised address on Tuesday, just hours after the last US soldiers evacuated from Kabul airport ending two decades of war.
“We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. And we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.”
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” he said.
The Taliban, which seized control the country in a lightning advance this month, celebrated their victory saying that Afghanistan is finally a “free and sovereign” nation.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said their victory should serve “as a lesson” for the United States.
Here are the latest updates:
US Treasury issued new license to ease flow of aid in Afghanistan
The US government last week issued a license authorising it and its partners to continue to facilitate humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, a Treasury Department official told Reuters, after the Taliban, which is blacklisted by Washington, seized control of the country this month.
The specific license, issued by the Treasury Department last Wednesday, authorises the US government and its contractors to support humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan, including the delivery of food and medicine, despite US sanctions on the Taliban.
The license, which expires on March 1, 2022, comes amid concerns that Washington’s sanctions on the Taliban could speed an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country, which relies heavily on foreign aid.
“This is targeted humanitarian assistance designed to help the people of Afghanistan,” the official said, adding the assistance is not going to Taliban authorities.
US denies abandoning dogs at Kabul airport
The US defense department has denied reports that soldiers abandoned some of their dogs at Kabul airport during Washington’s final pullout from Afghanistan.
“To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported military working dogs,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby posted on social media.
He clarified that photos circulating online showed dogs in an animal shelter and not those being used by the military.
The animal rights group PETA earlier quoted “inside sources” as saying that 60 bomb-sniffing dogs and 60 other “working dogs” were left behind “suffering in the heat without adequate access to food or water.”
Biden’s speech: The full transcript
President Joe Biden mounted a defiant defence of his Afghanistan policies on Tuesday, stressing that the withdrawal was the “right decision”.
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden said.
Read the speech here.
Biden signs law to aid Americans returning from Afghanistan
President Joe Biden signed into law on Tuesday a bill that would provide up to $10 million in assistance for US citizens who have been evacuated from Afghanistan for the next two years.
The Senate had passed the legislation unanimously earlier in the day. The House of Representatives approved it last week.
Senator Ben Cardin said the bill increases funds for returning Americans to help them meet their immediate needs, including housing.
“They’ve been uprooted, they were living in Afghanistan, so [it is] to take care of their necessities on a short-term basis,” CNN quoted Cardin as saying.
US progressive leaders praise Biden for withdrawal
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, praised President Joe Biden for completing the withdrawal in Afghanistan, saying that he made one of “most compelling cases against war” in his speech on Tuesday.
“A courageous, thoughtful, comprehensive and necessary articulation,” Jayapal wrote on Twitter, describing Biden’s address.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a left-wing legislator, echoed Jayapal’s comment. “President Biden is right that this decision is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” Warren said.