The President made the decision, remembering, among other things, his late son Beau Biden, who served in Iraq.
As President Joe Biden stood in the rain among the graves of American soldiers who died in Afghanistan, explaining the decision to begin withdrawing from America’s longest war, his thoughts never left his late son Bo.
The president’s eldest son was awarded the Bronze Star when he served in Iraq in 2008-2009. His death in 2015 from a brain tumor still haunts his father.
“These days, it’s hard for me to show up at a cemetery without thinking about my son Beau, who proudly insisted on putting on a uniform and going with his unit to Iraq, giving up his position as Delaware Attorney General because he thought it was the right thing to do,” Biden told reporters at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.
“Look at them all,” Biden said, pointing to the rows of white headstones behind him.
Beau Biden’s military experience was one reason the president decided to withdraw all 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, announcing it in a televised address before visiting the cemetery.
“I’m the first president in 40 years who knows what it’s like to have a child serving in a war zone,” Biden said, speaking in the White House Treaty Room, where President George W. Bush declared war in 2001.
“Throughout this process, my guiding light has been the memory of my late son Beau being deployed to Iraq,” Biden said.
Since becoming vice president in 2009, Biden said, he has carried a card with the exact number of US service members killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, as of Wednesday, 2,488 people were killed and 20,722 wounded in Afghanistan.
“All of these the dead are sacred human beings who left behind entire families,” he said.
The war in Afghanistan began as a search for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after he orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States that turned Bush into a military president.
In 2011, the number of the US military contingent in Afghanistan reached its peak – more than 100 thousand people. Currently, the Afghan security forces are trying to suppress the insurgency of the Islamist Taliban movement.
According to Biden, a full withdrawal by September 11 makes sense since the original task of catching bin Laden has been completed, and Afghanistan is no longer a haven for bin Laden-like Islamist militants.
Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by the US military in 2011.
“We already have military personnel doing their duty in Afghanistan, whose parents served in the same war. We have military personnel who were not yet born when our country was attacked on September 11,” Biden said, noting that no one imagined that this war would become a matter of several generations.
At Arlington Cemetery, Biden was asked if the decision was difficult for him.
“No, it wasn’t,” he said, “it was absolutely clear to me. Absolutely. You may remember that I never thought that we were there to unite in any way… Afghanistan. This has never happened. Never.”