“We are ending the nation’s longest war,” the president said in remarks at the White House Thursday.
At the time he announced the September deadline, about 3,500 troops remained. Earlier this week, the Pentagon said that the withdrawal was 90% complete. It proceeded quickly for a reason.
“Our military commanders advised me that once I made the decision to end the war, we needed to move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown, and in this context, speed is safety,” the president said. A different approach “would have certainly come with an increased risk of safety to our personnel,” and he noted that so far, no U.S. military personnel have been lost in the process.
U.S. forces last week exited Bagram Airfield, the largest American base in the country. The turnover of Bagram to the Afghan National Security Forces completed the U.S. transfer of all seven bases to Afghanistan, in effect, finishing the logistical part of the withdrawal.
Although the president made August 31 the formal deadline for U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan, the withdrawal is for all intents and purposes complete, with the transfer of control of Bagram.