Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday praised President Joe Biden’s “bold leadership” for his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, saying that “it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily” in America’s longest war.
“President Biden has made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan,” Obama said in a statement moments after Biden made his first public remarks on the decision.
“After nearly two decades of putting our troops in harm’s way, it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily, and that it’s time to bring our remaining troops home,” Obama said. “I support President Biden’s bold leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our standing around the world.”
The support from Obama carries symbolic weight. When Biden served as Obama’s vice president, he argued ardently to Obama that troops should be drawn down in 2009.
At one point that year, he hand-wrote a memo to Obama arguing for a withdrawal and faxed it to the White House from his Thanksgiving vacation on Nantucket. He made various attempts to argue his case to Obama, who chose instead to surge troops before eventually pulling many of them out.
Biden said Wednesday that the withdrawal will begin on May 1, in line with an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration made with the Taliban. He said the complete withdrawal will be done by September 11. Some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats, though officials declined to provide a precise number.
Biden spoke with two of his predecessors, Obama and former President George W. Bush, separately on Tuesday as he prepared to make the announcement.
“He values their opinions and wanted them both to hear directly from him about his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
And in a nod to Bush’s role in starting the nearly 20-year war, Biden delivered his remarks on the plan from precisely the same spot in the White House Treaty Room that the 43rd President announced the start of the war on October 7, 2001.
After formally announcing the decision, the President visited the section of Arlington National Cemetery where many of America’s war dead from Afghanistan are buried, where he saluted a wreath that was placed there.
This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.