There are currently 2,500 troops in the country.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden had spoken with two of the last three presidents on Twitter. “He values their opinions and wanted them both to hear directly from him about his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan,” she wrote.
Biden also said in prepared remarks announcing his plans for withdrawal that he’d spoken with Bush. He didn’t say whether the Republican who sent the U.S. into Afghanistan 20 years ago after 9/11 approved of the decision.
“While he and I have had many disagreements over policy throughout the years, we’re absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, the courage and integrity of the women and men in the United States Armed Forces who served, and immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.”
Obama publicly applauded the president’s decision to withdraw. “There will be very difficult challenges and further hardship ahead in Afghanistan, and the U.S. must remain engaged diplomatically and through our development efforts to support the Afghan people, particularly those who have taken extraordinary risks on behalf of human rights. But 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 had vowed to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan on the campaign trail but instead vastly increased troop presence in 2009 and 2010, noting a Taliban “resurgence.” He began a drawdown in 2011 and set a new goal of withdrawing all troops by 2014, which was unsuccessful.
Former President Trump, who apparently did not receive a phone call from his successor, struck a deal with the Taliban to remove all troops by May 1 if they ceased their attacks, but Biden pushed that deadline back four months.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Biden said the reasons for remaining in Afghanistan have “become increasingly unclear” with the terror threat spreading to other countries in Africa and Asia. But he warned the Taliban against any aggression as U.S. forces withdraw.
“The Taliban should know, if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal,” he said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have had mixed reactions to the announcement.