Biden: U.N. address marks 'the first time in 20 years' U.S. is not at war

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In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly since taking office, President Biden on Tuesday noted that his speech also marked “the first time in 20 years that the United States is not at war.”

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan,” he said. “As we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy.”

President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 21, 2021 at U.N. headquarters in New York City. More than 100 heads of state or government are attending the session in person, although the size of delegations is smaller due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)
President Biden addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. (Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

Biden’s appearance at the United Nations comes less than a month after the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, which triggered the quick collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government and military, allowing the Taliban to regain power.

The U.S. military’s exit prompted frustrations among some of the United States’ closest allies, including the United Kingdom and France, whose own troops had fought alongside Americans since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The president reportedly ignored calls from his European counterparts to keep U.S. troops in Kabul for longer in order to finish evacuating all of their citizens and at-risk Afghan allies from the Taliban-run country.

As he has done in previous speeches to the American public, Biden appeared to defend the timing of the U.S. military’s exit from Afghanistan to world leaders on Tuesday. With its longest war in the rearview, he argued, the United States is now able to take the lead on addressing a range of global issues, from climate change to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 21, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Biden addresses the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

“Instead of continuing to fight wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting resources to challenges that hold keys to our collective future,” he said, adding that “today, many of our greatest concerns ... cannot be addressed through force of arms.”

Biden said his administration will focus on promoting peace through diplomacy and development assistance, announcing that “the U.S. is making a $10 billion commitment to end hunger and invest in food systems at home and abroad.”

“One way we can enhance security and reduce violence is by seeking to improve the lives of people around the world,” he said.

While he insisted the United States will continue to defend itself and its allies against potential terrorist attacks, Biden said that going forward, “U.S. military power must be a tool of last resort.”


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