Obama and Bush: Biden speaks with former presidents ahead of Afghanistan withdrawal announcement

Afghanistan: why the United States is there, why they are leaving, what will happen when they are gone

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Separate telephone conversations between the president and former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush as Biden prepared to make the announcement underscore the longevity of the conflict, which spanned four presidential administrations and nearly 20 years.

“He appreciates their opinions and wanted them both to hear directly from him about his decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the appeals on Wednesday. of Biden with Obama and Bush.

While Bush – who announced the start of the war on Oct. 7, 2001 – declined to comment on his call with Biden, his spokesman Freddy Ford told CNN that former President and First Lady Laura Bush “remain committed to honor and support our post 9/11 veterans and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan through their work at the Bush Institute. ”

In a nod to Bush’s role in starting the nearly 20-year war, Biden delivered his remarks on the plan to withdraw from the same location in the White House treaty room that the 43rd President has announced the start of the war on October 7, 2001.

The conversation between the country’s 43rd and 46th presidents was brief, according to two officials familiar with the call, who also described it as warm and cordial.
Obama, meanwhile, praised Biden’s “bold leadership” for his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, saying “it’s time to recognize that we have accomplished all we can militarily” in the country. .

“President Biden made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan,” Obama said in a statement moments after Biden made his first public remarks on the decision.

Although he did not refer to his call with Biden in the statement, Obama said, “I support President Biden’s bold leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our position in the world.” .

This support carries symbolic weight, because Biden, then Obama’s vice-president, had ardently supported Obama that the troops should be withdrawn in 2009.

At one point that year, he handwrote a note to Obama pleading for a withdrawal and faxed it to the White House after his Thanksgiving vacation in Nantucket. He has tried several times to make his case to Obama, who instead chose to call in troops before withdrawing large numbers.

Biden said on Wednesday the pullout would begin on May 1, in line with an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration struck with the Taliban. He said the full withdrawal would be done by September 11. Some US troops will remain to protect US diplomats, although officials have declined to provide an exact figure.

After officially announcing the decision, the President visited the section of Arlington National Cemetery where many American war dead from Afghanistan are buried, where he saluted a wreath placed there.

This story was updated with additional details on Wednesday.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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