CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has been on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, reporting on events in the country ahead of President Biden's announcement to formally withdraw US troops by Sept. 11.
Here are his three takeaways from Biden's announcement today:
- Biden's decision is the product of decades of wrestling with the intractable problem of building Afghanistan back up. He personally feels the sacrifice of the 1% of Americans he reminded us serve in the military – of lives and years lost here in this war. It was a courageous decision, and a decision with no perfect outcome, but one he had accepted and had the responsibility to make. It likely won’t all go well, but it is the one thing the US has not tried here, and the reasons for staying – well, he admitted they were not good enough.
- Biden harked back to how his predecessor started this, it was not how he would have done it, but he wanted to honor it. Former President Trump set May 1 as the deadline for leaving completely. Biden will start then. That may not be enough for the Taliban who demanded the US leave in 16 days. But there’s been a lot of rhetoric, and still talking. In the end, Biden reminded us this situation was not of his making, not his choice throughout, but his to muster the courage to fix.
- There is scope to hit the Taliban militarily in the months ahead. He was clear that attacks on the US and their partners as they withdraw will get a tough response. That might mean they can use airstrikes against the Taliban if they attack Afghan forces. He also said the US diplomatic mission may need “security” – that could be interpreted in broad ways. He is definitely taking out the troops, but also leaving room to influence the battlefield in the fraught months ahead.