WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — An end to America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan is in sight, as President Joe Biden announced a plan to bring U.S. troops home by September 11. Biden said Wednesday the Sept. 11 terror attacks of 20 years ago cannot justify American forces still dying in the nation’s longest war.
Maine Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden agree.
In a statement following the news Tuesday, Pingree said the war in Afghanistan has “taken an incalculable human toll—impacting the future of not one, but two generations of Americans.”
“These wars should have ended long, long ago, and I applaud President Biden for establishing a clear timetable to withdraw our troops by the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” Pingree said. “Now it’s on Congress to prevent more endless wars by revoking the outdated 2001 authorization for the use of military force.”
The mission to bring justice to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda is one of the reasons Golden joined the Marines, he wrote in Newsweek last month.
“We've been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years now. We killed bin Laden almost a decade ago. It's well past time for American servicemembers to leave the country,” Golden said. “The terrorist threat to the United States certainly remains, and we should continue to take necessary action to deter and defend against terrorist attacks. America will fight when necessary to protect our homeland and keep our citizens safe. But we cannot continue decades-long, indefinite troop deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, or in every country where a terrorist organization exists.”
Biden’s plan is to pull out all American forces—numbering 2,500 now—by this Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks, which were coordinated from Afghanistan.
“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,” said Biden, who delivered his address from the White House Treaty Room, the same location where President George W. Bush announced the start of the war. “I am now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Withdrawing all U.S. troops comes with clear risks. It could boost the Taliban's effort to claw back power and undo gains toward democracy and women’s rights made over the past two decades. It also opens Biden to criticism, mostly Republicans and some Democrats, even though former President Donald Trump had also wanted a full withdrawal.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, participated in a hearing Wednesday morning, examining worldwide security threats to the U.S. There, she questioned CIA Director William Burns and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines about the consequences of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
“If, as many experts predict, the Taliban will make significant territorial gains once U.S. forces are gone, what would be the implications for U.S. interests, both regionally here at home and globally?” Collins asked.
Burns said al Qaeda and ISIS both continue to pose potential terrorist threats and remain intent on attacking U.S. targets, whether it is in the western region or ultimately on American soil.
“I think it is also clear that our ability to keep that threat in Afghanistan in check from either al Qaeda or ISIS in Afghanistan has benefited greatly from the presence of U.S. and coalition militaries on the ground and in the air, fueled by intelligence provided by the CIA and our other intelligence partners,” Burns said. “When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That's simply a fact.”
Burns concluded that there is a risk once U.S. forces withdraw, but according to Collins’ office “he committed to working with all intelligence partners to provide strategic warnings to other agencies to address threats if they begin to materialize.”
Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, who is also on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine Wednesday that the president’s announcement “is a serious one,” and that he “will be seeking more information in the days ahead about the administration’s considerations for stability in the region and defense of the homeland.”
Soon after Biden made his announcement, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels said the alliance had agreed to withdraw its roughly 7,000 forces from Afghanistan, matching Biden’s decision to begin a final pullout by May 1.
“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Biden said, but he added that the U.S. will “not conduct a hasty rush to the exit."