Letter to Certain Congressional Committees Regarding Afghanistan
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Consistent with section 1215(d) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Public Law 116-283), I have determined that a waiver of the limitation under subsection 1215(a) is important to the national security interests of the United States.
As I announced on April 14, 2021, after almost 20 years, it is time to end America’s longest war and bring our troops home. I reached this conclusion after conducting a rigorous policy review process and consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, and with the President of Afghanistan and many other leaders around the world.
We went to Afghanistan in 2001 for a clear and just purpose: to apprehend those who attacked our country on September 11, 2001; to root out al-Qa’ida; and to prevent future attacks against the United States from Afghanistan. As a Senator, I supported sending our military to Afghanistan for those reasons. Our original mission had overwhelming support in the Congress and our allies and partners rallied to our side and stood with us in Afghanistan.
We have long since accomplished the objectives that sent us to Afghanistan. It has been 10 years since we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. The terrorist threat from al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan is significantly degraded.
Over the last 20 years, however, the terrorist threat to the United States has become more dispersed around the globe. Keeping thousands of troops concentrated on the ground in Afghanistan no longer makes sense as the most effective counterterrorism strategy when the threat has metastasized across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Our focus and posture need to adapt accordingly.
As we draw down United States troops, we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat in Afghanistan. The United States will reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan. We will hold the Taliban and the Afghan government accountable to their commitments not to allow terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil. And we will refine our national strategy to monitor and disrupt terrorist threats wherever they arise.
Over the past few decades, the United States and our partners have trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces currently number close to 300,000, and they will continue to fight valiantly to protect the Afghan citizens. With the support of the Congress, we will continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. We will also continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls and to maintain significant humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan.
We will continue to pursue diplomacy and fully support peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations. And we will encourage other nations in the region, especially Pakistan, to do more to support Afghanistan and to support stability in the country. But we will not allow United States troops to be a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries. That is a recipe for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan.
We will withdraw responsibly, deliberately, and safely, in full coordination with our allies and partners. Our NATO allies and operational partners, who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us for almost 20 years and who have also made great sacrifices, will now withdraw alongside our forces as we stand by our enduring principle of “in together, out together.”
Finally, I want to acknowledge the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe as a Nation to the women and men who have served honorably in Afghanistan since 2001. They and their families have made incredible sacrifices for our Nation that we can never fully repay. I look forward to working with the Congress to continue supporting our forces and veterans and on countering the challenges our Nation faces across the globe.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.