President Biden on Wednesday said he called former President George W. Bush to discuss his plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.
Biden did not say if Bush approved of withdrawing the final 2,500 US troops by Sept. 11 — an idea that drew both bipartisan support and opposition.
“I spoke yesterday with President Bush and informed him of my decision,” Biden said at the White House.
In the speech, Biden said he will end the 20-year war with a final troop drawdown that begins in May. He spoke from the room where Bush launched the war after the 9/11 attacks.
“While he and I have had many disagreements over policy throughout the years, we are absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage and integrity of the women and men in the United States armed forces who served,” Biden said of his call with Bush.
Biden added that he and Bush were “immensely grateful for the bravery and backbone that they have shown through nearly two decades of combat deployments.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the daughter of Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, blasted the pullout as a “huge propaganda victory” for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“We know what happens if terrorists establish safe havens, we must ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Cheney said.
A spokesman for Bush did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The former Republican commander-in-chief rarely comments on present-day political debates.
Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, campaigned on bringing home troops from “forever” wars and set in motion the final drawdown of troops. Support for ending or continuing the war does not neatly fall along partisan lines.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday dodged a question about whether US special forces troops would remain in Afghanistan.
In December, Trump vetoed a $740 billion defense bill in part because it contained a provision from Cheney that would have halted his plan to reduce US troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 in November to 2,500 by Jan. 15.
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