President Joe Biden has defended the end of the war in Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul a day after the last American military planes left the country, concluding the nation's longest war after nearly 20 years.
Mr Biden, in defending a decision that has drawn scrutiny for its execution, said the real decision in Afghanistan was "between leaving and escalating," framing his choice to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country.
"I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," he said.
The US withdrawal was rocked by the Taliban's unexpectedly swift takeover of Afghanistan's capital.
Snapshots of people trying to flee the Taliban by congregating outside the gates of Kabul's airport, along with images from inside American military planes filled with evacuees, were broadcast around the world.
More than 150 Americans struggling to get to the airport were airlifted by helicopter off the roof of a nearby hotel. Thirteen US service members were killed in a terrorist attack last week outside the airport's gates and more than 170 other people died in the suicide blast.
And on Sunday, American forces carried out a deadly defensive strike targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an "imminent" threat to the airport.
The President contended that the US military was prepared to deal with all those events, even though he himself has admitted that the US was caught off-guard by the quick collapse of the Afghan army.
"This is the way the mission was designed. It was designed to operate under severe stress and attack, and that's what it did," Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden addressed the American people on Tuesday (US time) about his decision not to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan past the end of the month.
Earlier, the President first met with his national security team for a briefing on Afghanistan in the Situation Room.
Mr Biden paid tribute to the service members who were deployed to handle the withdrawal, including the 13 who died in the terrorist strike and praised their comrades who finished the mission.
"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 the crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country," Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden said he intends to hold the Taliban accountable to their commitment that those seeking to leave the country will be able to do so safely.