President Joe Biden will speak this Tuesday about the United States’ departure from Afghanistan after a 20-year war he had promised to end, but whose chaotic final days now overshadow his tenure.
The speech will be at 2:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m. GMT), the White House said, more than an hour after the initial program and a day after General Kenneth McKenzie announced the end of the longest warfare in the United States.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, I will address the American people about my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31,” he said in a statement Monday, shortly after the Pentagon announced that the last US military plane left Kabul.
Finish the last “Eternal war” arising from the attacks of September 11, 2001, was one of the greatest electoral promises of Biden. And the idea was overwhelmingly supported by public opinion.
But after 2,356 US military deaths, many thousands wounded and an estimated $2.3 trillion spent, the offensive in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban ends with the same insurgents returning to power.
And for many the withdrawal, which culminated in a lone plane taking off at midnight from Kabul with the last of the troops and diplomats, really amounts to a shocking defeat.
Biden, owner of that defeat, is now in politically dangerous territory.
After two weeks of evacuation flights, a titanic effort marred by a suicide bombing that killed 13 US servicemen and dozens of Afghans, Biden told the Pentagon and the State Department to announce the end of the intervention on Monday.
On Sunday, the president had received the coffins containing the remains of those 13 killed soldiers, the last uniformed Americans who died in a war not wished by their compatriots for a long time.
On Monday, Biden appeared briefly in public, during a virtual meeting with officials to discuss the response to Hurricane Ida. But he did not take questions from journalists.
And when the Pentagon announced that the last plane had departed from Kabul, Biden issued only a written statement asking for a “prayer of thanks” to the US forces.
With his speech this afternoon at the White House, Biden will have the opportunity to explain his vision.
Republicans, led by Donald Trump, Biden’s ever-critical predecessor, describe the exit as a humiliating failure, a defeat that surpasses even the 1975 evacuation of Saigon and a signal to the world that the United States has surrendered.
Biden is likely to make quite a different argument: that ending a war on the other side of the world will never be pretty, and that he is the first president in 20 years with the courage to do what everyone knew had to happen.
Victory or defeat?
While the output of Afghanistan had popular support, the way it came to fruition surprised Americans.
The chaos began with the sudden collapse of the Afghan army trained by USA, allowing the Taliban to deploy across the country with virtually no hindrance.
That abrupt shift in the balance of power led to an extraordinary evacuation operation that lasted two weeks, in which some 120,000 people, most of them Afghan allies, were flown out of the country.
There is no shortage of criticism about how this operation was carried out.
Up to 200 US citizens may have been stranded on Afghan soil due to failure to reach Kabul airport.
The suicide bombing that killed the 13 soldiers was especially cruel, given that five of the victims were only 20 years old, they had barely been born when the war began.
And the fact that the entire evacuation was done because the Taliban allowed it was a painful reality check.
But Biden will respond that what happened was a victory.
“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in American history, evacuating more than 120,000 American citizens, citizens of our allies, and American Afghan allies.” Biden said in his statement Monday.
“They have done it with unparalleled courage, professionalism and determination”, he stressed.
In that statement, Biden also reiterated assurances from US and international officials that the Taliban agreed to allow those who still remain in Afghanistan to leave.
For the president, this was not a fiasco, but a bold escape from a nightmare.
The clash of narratives could determine the Democrat’s tenure, and the afternoon speech at the White House will be his chance to make his case.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.