President Joe Biden on Thursday said it is up to the Afghan people alone how they run their country, as he announced the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end on Aug. 31 despite new concerns about the possibility of a civil war.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” Biden said. “It’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
Biden delivered his most extensive comments to date about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan under pressure from critics to give more explanation for his decision to withdraw.
Biden also said U.S. plans to move thousands of Afghan interpreters out of the country in anticipation of the end of the U.S. military mission in the country on Aug. 31.
The United States last weekend abandoned Bagram air base, the longtime staging ground for U.S. military operations in the country, effectively ending America’s longest war. The Pentagon says the withdrawal of U.S. forces is 90% complete.
Washington agreed to withdraw in a deal negotiated last year under Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden overruled military leaders who wanted to keep a larger presence to assist Afghan security forces and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a staging ground for extremist groups.
Instead, the United States plans to leave 650 troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the U.S. Embassy.
The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, warned last week that the country may be headed toward a civil war.