After the US troops left Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) said that the real decision was between leaving and escalating and he was not going to extend a “forever war or extend a forever exit.”

Speaking one day after the last United States troops left Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war, President Biden defended his decision to end the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, calling it “the right decision, the wise decision, the best decision for America.”

“The decision to end US military presence in Afghanistan was based on a unanimous recommendation by civilian, military advisors, service chiefs and commanders in the field. Their recommendation for safe passage of remaining Americans was not to continue,” said Biden.

“I was not going to extend this forever war,” Biden said in remarks from the White House, “and I was not extending a forever exit.”

Biden also said that he takes responsibility for his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, but said he respectfully disagrees with those who say he should have begun mass evacuations earlier, claiming there would have been a rush to the airport.

“I take responsibility for the decision. Some say we should have started it sooner. I respectfully disagree. Had it been before, it would have led to a rush or a civil war. There is no evacuation from the end of the war without challenges, threats we face,” he said.

Biden said the U.S. achieved its original goal in Afghanistan a decade ago by hunting down Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida leader and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, but still stayed another decade. The terrorist threat has metastasized since then, Biden said, and the U.S. will maintain its fight against it, but he added, “We don’t need to fight a ground war to do it.”

“For those asking for the third decade of war, I ask, what is the vital national interest? In my view we only have one: to make sure Afghanistan can never again be used to launch an attack on our homeland,” said Biden.

Nearly 2,500 U.S. service members have died over the 20-year war in Afghanistan. In his remarks, Biden said that people don’t understand “how much we have asked of the 1 per cent [of Americans] who put on the military uniform.” He cited the war’s costs to America — an estimated USD 300 million a day — as well as human costs to veterans and their families — including, he said, the 18 U.S. veterans who die by suicide each day.

Biden said about 100 to 200 Americans still remain in Afghanistan “with some intention to leave.” Most of them, he added, “are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”

Biden said that “the bottom line” was that “90 per cent 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.”