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Quest Means Business
Taliban Declare Victory After Hasty U.S. Withdrawal; Looming Humanitarian And Economic Crises As U.S. Troops Depart Afghanistan; Chinese Tech Shares Rocked by Video Game Ban; Biden Addresses The Nation On End Of The Afghanistan War. Aired 3-3:55p ET
Aired August 31, 2021 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 are pushing for record high, the Dow seems unlikely to join them. Still, as you can
see, mired in the red. Those are the markets and these are the main events for you.
Joe Biden set to speak any moment at the White House as the United States ends its war in Afghanistan.
China says children can`t play more than three hours of video games a week.
And the Chief Executive of Qantas tells us Australians are getting frustrated with continuous lockdowns.
Live from London, it is Tuesday, the 31st of August, I`m Isa Soares, and I too, mean business.
A very good evening, everyone. Tonight, America`s longest war is over.
Now that the last U.S. troops have left Kabul and the Taliban have declared victory, the Afghan people face really an uncertain fate in what many fear
is the looming humanitarian, as well as an economic crisis.
Any moment, we`ll take you to the White House where President Joe Biden is set to speak on the end of the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Of
course, we`ll bring that to you as soon as it begins.
In Kabul, the U.S. evacuation has concluded and the Taliban have taken control of the airport. The American exit was chaotic, it was bloody, and
politically damaging to Biden. We`re told the President will try to put 20 years of war in broader context and explain why he refused to leave troops
there any longer.
Well, back in the Afghan capital, the Taliban spokesman put his own context on the American defeat. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): The U.S. aggression was a reckless act from the beginning. We told the U.S. at the
same time they should not invade our territory. They should have talked to us about the problems that happened in 2001, the 9/11 attacks, and there
was no need for war.
Unfortunately, the U.S. officials used arrogance at the time. They did not consider the outcome of their work and the result was that now, they were
defeated and the Afghan people won the battlefield and liberated their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, the final U.S. military flight left Afghanistan overnight, one minute before the August 31st deadline. We`re now learning dramatic
details of the U.S. effort to get Americans out.
Pentagon sources say there was a secret agreement with the Taliban to escort U.S. citizens through the chaos and into the airport. This image
shows the last U.S. service member on Afghan soil boarding a C-17 out of Kabul that makes that really harrowing mission that evacuated 123,000
people out of country over the last few weeks.
Well, for the Taliban, it was a day of celebration as they marked this milestone in their swift return to power. "The Los Angeles Times"
journalist saw Taliban fighters inspecting the war machines the U.S. left behind as you can see there. The Pentagon says the equipment has been
Let`s get more on this. Sam Kiley is in Doha for us, but first, Stephen Collinson is in Washington. Stephen, give our viewers an idea of what we
are expecting to hear from President Biden today.
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER First of all, I think, Isa, this is a moment of history, the end of a traumatic 20-year period
following the September 11th attacks of the United States, and the President also has an audience outside America.
I think what you will hear him try to do is put a line under this. He wants to say, he wants to give the American people the impression that he was the
President who ended this war, notwithstanding the messy, poorly planned, and mismanaged evacuation.
I think he has been given some political leeway by the success of the military operation that got more than 120,000 people, Afghans, and
foreigners out of Afghanistan, notwithstanding the fact that you know, perhaps tens of thousands of Afghans and some Americans are left behind.
I think he has to do some political work domestically. The President rand for office on the idea that he was competent, that he was compassionate,
that he was a foreign policy expert, and that he would always level with the American people.
This crisis has really raised questions about a lot of those perceptions of the President. It is no longer good enough, I think, for President Biden
not to be Donald Trump, and really does have a little bit of political cleaning up to do in the speech as well as its wider international context.
SOARES: And Sam, we saw the Taliban celebrating. For them this was, of course, a victory. The hard work is only just beginning. We`re expecting
them to form a government. How will that government look like? What would it look like? And how inclusive critically would it be -- Sam.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they`ve promised an element of inclusivity. They have got Hamid Karzai who has been talking
to them, Abdullah Abdullah -- the former President -- Abdullah Abdullah, the former Chief Executive of Afghanistan, both of them effectively ran
Afghan governments before. They have been there since the Taliban take over, since Ashraf Ghani fled into exile in the United Arab Emirates.
So, there are opportunities there for not only window dressing, but to actually be more inclusive. They`ve been making a lot of positive signals,
not only to the international community, but to the local community, instructing their Special Forces very publicly today to be much -- to be
respectful towards fellow Afghans, to not oppress fellow Afghans.
It is going to be very difficult for them to get that message out to some of the more hard line radical elements, often illiterate, who have been fed
an unremitting diet of very extreme mutant form of Islam through madrasahs over the many years, a kind of brain-washing process effectively to try and
steer them back toward the notion of inclusivity. One that, indeed, means that you have to respect foreigners, people who are non-Muslims, infidels
if you like.
It is going to be a very hard route to take in terms of the politics and then, they`ve got the military issues. They are facing an insurgency from
ISIS-K, a vicious organization that the Taliban has suffered at the hands of and has spent a great deal of military effort trying to annihilate on
the battle fields of Afghanistan, even as they would were also prosecuting a war against the international coalition and the Afghan government, so
that threat continues to exist.
And there are now reports of more fighting or some fighting in the Panjshir Valley where the last elements of the former Northern Alliance, the
predominantly Tajiks and elements of the Afghan National Army are still holding out. That`s the one area where Afghanistan hasn`t folded into
So they`ve got a very fractious nation to get to grips with. And certainly here in Qatar, the hope, ambition, is that they will understand that and
therefore moderate their views, and therefore, be able to participate in the international community in terms of trade and above all, aid, which is
what they will need in a nation where the United Nations is already warning that so many millions of children are already in danger of malnutrition.
Half a million may be on the move. Half a million have already been displaced. So, there is already a humanitarian disaster and no way of
dealing with it until the Taliban get their government together -- Isa.
SOARES: And Stephen, given everything that Sam Kiley really just outlined for us and painted a picture of, the state of the country right now, what
would you -- and given the way we`ve seen the withdrawal, messy and bloody, how do you think Biden -- what do you think Biden`s legacy, America`s
legacy will be with this war?
COLLINSON: Well, I think there will be an international legacy where in the reputation of the United States and this President will continue to be
damaged. But I think there will also be a domestic legacy.
I wouldn`t be surprised if President Biden after today tries never to speak about the war in Afghanistan again, other than to say he ended it. If bad
consequences unfold in Afghanistan, it becomes another critically failed state. The Taliban and ISIS, for example, get into some kind of Civil War,
there is a huge humanitarian crisis. It will be a stain on his legacy.
But the President has made clear that he is concerned mostly about Americans before the rest of the world. He is in the middle of fighting a
pandemic which is getting worse. There are now 150,000 average new cases of COVID-19 in the United States every day. He has got other things that he
wants to talk about. And I think fundamentally, the Afghan War and the way that it ended is much more of a concern of elites, foreign policy experts,
former officials, generals, journalists in Washington, than it is out in the heartland and in the places that sent their children off to die in the
post 9/11 war.
So, it`s a much different thing, depending on the perspective you take.
SOARES: Of course. And I know the White House made it clear that The Pentagon mission is over, because don`t forget that there are plenty still
of Americans and allies and green card holders there waiting to get out.
Sam Kiley for us there in Doha, Stephen Collinson in Washington, thank you to you both.
Well, the United Nations Secretary-General is warning that a human catastrophe looms in Afghanistan. You heard Sam Kiley talking about it
there, and it is also urging of new funding from member states.
Afghanistan under the Taliban is a country short on money, food, medicine, and most other basic needs of really for a functioning economy.
SOARES: Medecins Sans Frontieres says the healthcare system is at risk of collapsing without the continued flow of foreign aid.
Last year, grants financed 75 percent of public spending in Afghanistan, 43 percent of its GDP came from international aid.
We know the Taliban will not have access to the I.M.F. or World Bank support, and the U.S. has frozen access to Afghan reserves. The aid flow is
likely the last bit of leverage Western countries will have on the Taliban, but in a country where half the population lives in poverty, withholding
that funding will hurt the people who can least afford it.
Nematullah Bizhan was an economic adviser to the Afghan Finance Ministry after the fall of Taliban in 2001. He now lectures at the Australian
National University in Canberra. He joins me now.
Nematullah, thank you very much for joining us. In advance, I want to apologize. We are waiting for President Biden to speak. If he does appear,
of course, I will have to interrupt you.
But as you -- I don`t know if you heard our correspondents painting a picture there of the situation on the ground, not just from a humanitarian
perspective, but also from an economic perspective.
Taliban, Nematullah now are in charge, but they now actually have to run the country. We`ve seen people queueing to get money out of banks, people
fleeing. How soon does the Taliban have before the economy spirals into collapse here?
NEMATULLAH BIZHAN, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO THE AFGHAN FINANCE MINISTRY: Well, what we see at the moment in Afghanistan, not only a humanitarian
crisis but also the economy is also collapsing in Afghanistan.
What can be observed on what is happening on the ground, public services are disrupted or cut and government employees are not being paid, and the
banks have put limits of up to $200.00 on cash withdrawal.
There is a massive outflow of capital from the country, not to mention the exodus of educated and trained people. The confidence of investors is also
at the lowest.
Coming to the two other triggering factors, we lost the access to aid in Afghanistan and also the U.S. government has frozen Afghanistan`s foreign
The situation is alarming and how soon the economy can recover in Afghanistan? The prospects doesn`t seem promising. And soon Afghanistan
will experience financial collapse, which may cause widespread hunger and economic collapse in the country.
SOARES: Of course, hunger, inflation, food prices going through the roof as well. One analyst I read today said that Afghanistan is suffering from the
abrupt end of a multibillion dollar war economy.
Given the image you`ve just painted as well, the economic image, the fact the borders are now closed, foreign currency reserves have been frozen. You
know, where does the Taliban go now? Do they have any funding at all? Anything from the wars they were fighting before?
BIZHAN: Now, the international power, sorry, regional actors or regional powers will have more rule in Afghanistan such as China, Pakistan, Iran,
and Russia. But the question is, can they substitute for the loss of American aid to Afghanistan? I don`t think so, if the regional actors will
be able to do so.
But what else can be a fallible for the Taliban to rely on? That will be trade and transit between Central and South Asia, and also, investment and
extraction of natural resources by China, but both of them will depend on the legitimacy of the new government in Afghanistan.
And last, the domestic and international legitimacy and of course, end the Civil War in Afghanistan, because resistance in Afghanistan is in the
making, and if the U.S. imposes sanctions on the Taliban, it will be difficult for the new government in Afghanistan to capitalize on transit
and also, investment and extraction from natural resources in Afghanistan. So Afghanistan will be in a difficult situation.
SOARES: Yes, and Nematullah, you`ve made some points, several points there. You know, the idea that China perhaps could step in and could look to
extract some of its resources from Afghanistan. That wouldn`t be immediate. What Afghanistan needs now is immediate help and funding. I suspect they
don`t have enough revenue from the insurgency days, you know, illegal mining, opium production, trade routes. That doesn`t suffice right now,
BIZHAN: That`s correct. In the short turn, they don`t have access to financial resources. And what we see in Afghanistan is happening is a
humanitarian crisis and the question is, how can those people who are in need not be neglected in Afghanistan? And still, Afghanistan has a
humanitarian crisis. But the question is how the international engagement in Afghanistan would look like.
What I think is needed in Afghanistan that is still, the country needs humanitarian aid, but that should channeled or provided through non-state
actors, humanitarian organizations who have provided directly to the beneficiaries.
The question is also, how the economy will be managed by the new government because what we see from what`s happening in Afghanistan, unqualified
people were being appointed in key positions such as the Finance Ministry, the Central Bank, and some other institutions, that`s also another factor
that will impact economic management in the short term and longer term, but coming to access to resources, the access of the Taliban is limited.
SOARES: Yes, Nematullah Bizhan, important context. Thank you very much for joining us here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
BIZHAN: Thank you for having me.
SOARES: Now, it is one of the biggest parenting questions of modern times: how long should you let your kids play video games? Well, in China, the
government has made the decision for you. Now, gaming companies are feeling the pressure. We will explain, next.
SOARES: Now, we are waiting for U.S. President Joe Biden to speak at the White House. He is scheduled to make remarks to the American people after
the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. Of course, when those remarks begin, we, of course, will bring them
to you live.
SOARES: Now, shares in Chinese video game companies are trying to bounce back after the country announced Monday that children will be banned from
gaming for more than three hours a week. Beijing says underage gamers can only play online between 8:00 is that 9:00 p.m. On Fridays, weekends or
public holidays. Shared in the Chinese gaming company, Netease fell sharply on that news, as you can see there. They have rebounded today after the
results showed gaming revenues were up the last quarter. Now, that can be in danger as Steven Jiang now reports.
STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR BUREAU PRODUCER: These new rules are not entirely surprising. Just a few weeks ago, a major state media outlet described the
video games as spiritual opium, as a result, wiping out billions of dollars in market value for some of the country`s biggest gaming companies. So
these latest rules are almost the other shoe dropping.
Now, this is not even the Chinese government`s first attempt to limit playtime for minors. Back in 2019, they already limited play time for
people under 18 to 90 minutes each day and three hours at most doing public holidays.
They have also long required real name registration and login for all video games.
But all of these restrictions apparently not enough according to officials because they have received so many complaints from parents who say gaming
addiction has severely affected their children`s ability to learn, to study, their mental and physical health, as well as causing social
So the authorities trying to frame their latest decision addressing people`s concerns and protecting children`s welfare.
Now, the enforcement is mostly going to be carried out by gaming companies, which have pledged to strictly follow the latest regulations. But they also
added that minors account for only a very small portion of their user base as well as revenues.
There are of course, plenty of support and even cheering voices online with parents, some even outside of China applauding this decision as a move long
But this kind of nanny state approach of course is very much controversial. South Korea for example, is in the process of abolishing gaming curfew for
teenagers because of the lack of effectiveness. And some people also say this latest move is another example of the ruling Communist Party here
trying to reinsert itself into every aspect of people`s private life for political and ideological reasons, especially for the younger generation.
Just in the past few weeks, the government here has banned after school private tutoring and they are also cracking down on so-called celebrity
worshipping culture among the young people, and now, of course, these gaming restrictions.
So, leading some people asking sarcastically, what are young Chinese people now supposed do to during their spare time?
Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.
SOARES: Maybe go for a run? I don`t know.
The Chinese authorities say they are making this move now at the beginning of the new school year to stop kids from getting addicted to online games.
They are not the only ones who are worried. The World Health Organization officially have recognized gaming disorder as a disease in 2018. They say
that is when someone can`t control their gaming. It prioritizes gaming over other interests and keeps going with it despite negative consequences.
Professor Andrew Przybylski is an experimental psychologist and Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. Thank you so much, Professor for
ANDREW PRZYBYLSKI, EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AT THE OXFORD INTERNET INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me on.
SOARES: Look, when I heard this story from my producer, I said, well, I can`t really do that at home with my kids. I limit their time. But what we
don`t really know, Professor is how damaging it actually is. Is it damaging at all?
PRZYBYLSKI: well, I think this is a case of regulations or policy -- health policy getting really far ahead of where the science is.
We know from years of research that there is not really any kind of strong relationship between how many time people spend -- young people, older
people spend playing video games and their mental health. The evidence just isn`t there for any of that.
That`s not to say it doesn`t make sense for you or I to be tuned in to our young people, to set rules, and boundaries, and be in touch with them, but
when it comes to the science, they`re really out of step.
SOARES: Andrew, do we have the science for younger people though here rather than 18-plus? Because there must be critically an addictive nature
to these games. That`s why they`re created, right?
PRZYBYLSKI: Well, I mean, you have to be very careful about using the word "addiction." There is a technical, psychiatric meaning that we would use in
psychology research and then, there is the everyday use of saying, it is fun or it is enjoyable.
So, when you talk about young people, no. We also have evidence from young people. We ask young people how they`re doing. We ask their parents about
their video game play habits. And again, we find very little relationship between just raw hours or minutes of ideal game play and mental health and
What we do find is that the reason why people have to play games, young people have to play, if they are playing because they feel like they want
to, it`s okay. But if they feel like they are playing out of a sense of compulsion, that`s a red flag that doesn`t necessarily mean drawing a
psychiatrist into the room, but it does mean having a heart to heart chat with your child.
SOARES: When you hear parents basically saying, I`m limiting the time my child spends on gaming. Do you roll your eyes or do you really understand
the other component? They need to socialize, they need to be doing some exercise.
I know you were talking about the addiction. Talk to us a bit more about that. What the gaming -- what gaming does to a child`s brain whilst they
PRZYBYLSKI: Yes, I mean, you said it just there. What happens when a child is playing? And I think a really important thing for us to be doing here is
to kind of take video games out of the black box. Understand that like riding a bike or playing a sport or exercise, this is another thing that
we`re in charge of, kind of helping our young people learn how to balance a wide range of activities, whether it be school or fun or enjoyment, and it
is really our job.
Nothing magical happens when somebody turns 18, and if we don`t prepare young people for balancing the ups and downs of life, we`re doing them a
I think, it is amazing. I don`t roll my eye when a parent says they limits screen time or they limit video game time, because at least that means that
they are engaged and I really hope that that means they have kinds of conversations that my partner and I have with our young people as we try to
teach them things like this.
SOARES: Yes, I`m often having this discussion at home, Andrew. But let`s talk -- I mean, are there any benefits to gaming here?
PRZYBYLSKI: Yes, so we tend to find that people who play more video games, they are actually slightly happier than those who don`t and this is kind of
analogous to anyone who has a hobby.
It might be happier people have access to video games than less happy people. It`s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.
But no, I mean, this is a case of the science in many cases not being very strongly in favor of the benefits direction. It is pretty clear that video
games can connect people, that people can relax playing them.
But I think that you know, just as it is a bit silly that the World Health Organization decided to create a psychiatric disorder around video games,
it is also a bit silly to think that video games themselves are necessarily an ingredient in improving our mental health.
SOARES: But, I mean, it also depends, Andrew on the type of video game we`re talking about here.
SOARES: There are some violent video games, correct?
PRZYBYLSKI: Yes. So, I mean, this is a kind of classic debate that goes back a really long time about you know, we have had these debates about
"Dungeons and Dragons" about, rap music. The question is, do comic books make young people more likely to commit crimes? I mean, we don`t find
particularly strong evidence of that either.
SOARES: I`m sorry to interrupt. I`m sorry to interrupt, but President Biden is speaking. Let`s listen in.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the longest war in
We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. That number is more than double what most
experts thought were possible.
No nation -- no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history, and only the United States had the capacity and the will and the ability to
do it and we did it today.
The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States Military and our
diplomats and Intelligence professionals.
For weeks, they risked their lives to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies, and partners, and others on board planes
and out of the country and they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country, and they did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists,
sworn enemies of the Taliban were lurking in the midst of those crowds.
And still, the women and men of the United States Military, our diplomatic corps and Intelligence professionals did their job and did it well, risking
their lives, not for professional gains but to serve others. Not in a mission of war, but a mission of mercy.
Twenty service members were wounded in the service of this mission, 13 heroes gave their lives. I was just at Dover Air Force Base for the
dignified transfer. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.
In April, I made a decision to end this war. As part of that decision, we set the date of August 31st for American troops to withdraw. The assumption
was that more than 300,000 Afghan national security forces that we trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their
civil wars with the Taliban. That assumption that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military draw
downturned. It turned out not to be accurate.
But I still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality, even that one. And that`s what we did. So, we were ready when
the Afghan security forces after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own, did not hold on as long as anyone
expected. We were ready when they -- and the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and the president flee amid the corruption
and malfeasance. Handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our allies.
As a result, to safely extract citizens before August 31st, as well as Embassy personnel, allies and partners and those Afghans who had worked
with us and fought alongside of us for 20 years, I had authorized 6,000 troops, American troops to Kabul to help secure the airport.
As General McKenzie said, this is the way the mission was designed. It was designed operate under severe stress and attack and that`s what it did.
Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan, all the way
back as far as March. After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who had
decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave.
Our operation allied rescue ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out. We got thousands of citizens and diplomats from those countries that went
into Afghanistan with us to get Bin Laden. We got out locally employed staff in the United States Embassy and their families, totaling roughly
2,500 people. We got thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States out as well.
Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are duel citizens.
Longtime residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan. The bottom line, 90 percent of Americans in
Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if
they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken, is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner,
or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.
In fact, just yesterday, the United Nation Security Council passed a resolution that sent a clear message what the international community
expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward. Notably, freedom of travel. Freedom to leave. Together we are joined by over 100 countries that
are determined to make sure the Taliban upholds the commitments. It will include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport, as well as
overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who want to leave and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave including
those who worked alongside Americans. We don`t take them pi their word alone but by their actions. And we have leverage to make sure those
commitments are met.
Let me be clear, leaving August 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president,
signed an agreement with Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1st, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that Taliban
work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some
of the Taliban top war commanders. Among those, who just took control of Afghanistan.
By time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001. Controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.
The previous administration agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn`t attack
any American forces. But if we stayed, all bets were off. So, we were left with a simple decision. Either follow through on the commitment made by the
last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren`t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war.
That was the choice, the real choice, between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war and I was not extending a forever
exit. The decision to end the military lift operation at Kabul Airport was based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers. The
Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the service chiefs and the commanders in the field.
Their recommends was that the safest way to secure the passage of the remaining Americans and others out of the country was not to continue a
6,000 troops on the ground in harms-way in Kabul but rather to get them out through non-military means.
In the 17 days that we operated in Kabul, after the Taliban seized power, we engaged in an around the clock effort to provide every American the
opportunity to leave. Our State Department was working 24/7 contacting and talking and, in some cases, walking Americans into the airport.
Again, more than 5,500 Americans were airlifted out. And for those who remain we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose. As for
the Afghans, we and our partners have air lifted 100,000 of them. No country in history has done more to air lift out the residents of another
country than we have done. We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. We`re far from done.
For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer for our troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this mission of
mercy in Kabul and a tremendous risk with such unparalleled results. An airlift that evacuated tens of thousands, to a network of volunteers and
veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport and provided them for their support along the way.
We`re going to continue to need their help. We need your help and I`m looking forward to meeting with you. And to everyone who is now offering
who are will offer to welcome Afghan allies to their homes around the world, including in America, we thank you. I take responsibility for the
Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner. And couldn`t had been done in a more orderly manner. I respectfully disagree. Imagine if
we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of the Civil
War, there still would`ve been a rush to the airport.
A break down on confidence and control of the government and it still would have been very difficult and a dangerous mission. The bottom line is, there
is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced. None.
For those who say we should have stayed indefinitely for years on end -- they ask why don`t we just keep doing what we were doing? Why do we have to
change anything? The fact is everything had changed. My predecessor had made a deal with the Taliban. When I came into office we faced a deadline,
May 1. The Taliban onslaught was coming. We faced one of two choices. Follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend it to have -
- or extend, have more time for people to get out. Or send in thousands more troops and escalate the war.
For those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, what is the vital national interest? In my view, we only have one. To make sure
Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland. Remember why we went to Afghanistan in first place. Because we were
attacked by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001 and they were based in Afghanistan. We delivered justice to bin Laden on May 2nd,
2011 -- over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated.
I respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question, if we been attacked on September 11, 2001, from Yemen instead of Afghanistan, would we have
ever gone to war in Afghanistan? Even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the year 2001. I believe the honest answer is no. That`s
because we had no vital interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America`s homeland and our friends. That`s true today. We
succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago, and we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.
This is a new world. The terror threat has metastasized across the world well beyond Afghanistan. We faced threats from Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Al
Qaeda affiliates in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates across
Africa and Asia.
The fundamental obligation of a president in my opinion is to defend and protect America. Not against threats of 2001 but against the threats of
2021 and tomorrow. That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan. I simply do not believe that the safety and security of
America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and sending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan. But I also know that
the threat from terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature.
But it`s changed. Expanded to other countries. Our strategy has to change too. We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other
countries. We just don`t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what`s called over the horizon capabilities which means we can strike
terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground or very few if needed.
We have shown that capacity in the last week. We struck ISIS-K remotely. Days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozens of innocent
Afghans. And to ISIS-K. We are not done with you yet. As commander-in-chief I firmly believe the best path to guard our safety and our security lies in
a tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy that goes after terror where it is today. Not where it was two decades ago. That`s what`s in our
Here is the critical thing to understand. The world is changing. We`re engaged in a serious competition with China. We`re dealing with the
challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. We`re confronted with cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation. We have to sure up American
competitiveness to meet the new challenges and the competition for the 21st century. We can do both. Fight terrorism and take on new threats that are
here now and will continue to be here in the future. And there`s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than
the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.
As we turn the page on the foreign policy that`s guided our nation the last two decades, we`ve got to learn from our mistakes. To me there`s two that
are paramount. First, we must set missions with clear achievable goals. Not ones we`ll never reach.
And second, we stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interest of the United States of America. This decision about Afghanistan
is not just about Afghanistan. It`s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. We saw a mission of counter terrorism
in Afghanistan. Getting the terrorists and stop the attacks -- morph into a counter insurgency.
Nation building, trying to create a democratic cohesive and united Afghanistan. Something that has never been done over many centuries of
Afghan`s history. Moving on from that mind set and those kind of large- scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.
And for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say clearly, to those who wish America harm, to those engaged in terrorism against us or our allies,
know this -- the United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We`ll hunt you down to ends of the earth and you will pay
the ultimate price.
Let me be clear. We`ll continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid. We`ll continue to
push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We`ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan
people -- especially women and girls -- as we speak out women and girls all around the globe.
And I`ve been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy, but the way to do that is not through endless military deployments,
but through diplomacy, economic tools and rallying the rest of the world for support.
My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over. I`m the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war. When
I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today, I`ve honored that commitment. It was time
to be honest with the American people again.
We no longer had a clear purpose and an open-ended mission in Afghanistan. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refuse to send another generation
of America`s sons and daughters to fight a war should have ended long ago.
After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan, a cost that researchers at Brown University estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years
in Afghanistan, for two decades.
Yes, the American people should hear this, $300 million a day for two decades. You could take the number of $1 trillion, as many say. That`s
still $150 million a day for two decades. And what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? I refuse to continue to war that was
no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people.
And most of all, after 800,000 Americans served in Afghanistan, I`ve traveled that whole country, brave and honorable service. After 20,744
American service men and women injured. And the loss of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week. I refused to open
another decade of warfare in Afghanistan.
We`ve been a nation too long at war. If you`re 20 years old today, you`ve never known an America at peace. So, when I hear that we could have, should
have continued the so-called "low grade effort" in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low costs I don`t think enough people understand
how much we`ve asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on. Willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.
Maybe it`s because my deceased son, Beau, served in Iraq for a full year. Before that -- well. Maybe it`s because of what I`ve seen over the years as
Senator, Vice President and President traveling in these countries. A lot of our veterans and our families have gone through hell. Deployment after
deployment, months and years away from their families, missed birthdays, anniversaries, empty chairs at holidays, financial struggles, divorces,
loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress.
We see it in the struggles many have when they come home. We see it in the strain on their families and caregivers. We see it in the strain in their
families when they`re not there. We see it in the grief born by their survivors. The cost of war, they will carry with them their whole lives.
Most tragically, we see in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war can ever be low grade, low risk or low
cost, 18 veterans on average who die by suicide every single day in America.
Not in a far-off place, but right here in America. There is nothing low grade or low risk or low cost about any war. It`s time to end the war in
As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it`s time to look at the future, not the past. To a future that`s safer, to a future
that`s more secure. To a future the honors those who served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called, "Their last full measure of
I give you my word, with all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision and the best decision for America. Thank you.
Thank you, and may God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.