Joe Biden has hailed the “extraordinary success” of the US evacuation in Afghanistan, saying he “was not going to extend this forever war”.
The US president has been heavily criticised for his handling of the evacuation of Afghanistan, which saw more than 120,000 people successfully airlifted from Kabul airport, but left between 100 and 200 Americans behind.
Questions have been raised about why the president did not authorise another day of airlifts after the last air force plane departed Kabul at one minute before midnight on Monday.
President Biden had set Tuesday as the deadline for ending the evacuation and getting the remaining US troops out of the country after the Taliban took power.
Speaking at a White House news conference this evening, Mr Biden said his 31 August deadline was not “arbitrary” and was “designed to save lives”.
He added that for Americans left behind “there is no deadline” and he “remains committed to getting them out if they want to get out”.
“The bottom line is that 90% of those who wanted to leave were able to leave,” he said.
He said America had “succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan more than a decade ago and we stayed for another decade”.
The US president said we are now facing new threats in a “new world”.
Addressing ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), the terror group which carried out a devastating suicide bombing at Kabul airport that killed up to 169 Afghans, 13 US military personnel and two Britons, Mr Biden said: “We are not done with you yet.”
He added: “To those who wish America harm, know this. The US will never rest. We will never rest. We will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth and you will pay the ultimate price.”
President Biden also claimed the US has “leverage” to make sure the Taliban’s commitment to the safe passage of Americans is met, adding that the US will continue to support Afghans through diplomacy and international aid.
“I have been clear that human rights will be the centre of our foreign policy,” Mr Biden said. “The way to do this isn’t through endless military deployments.
“My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over.”
In a written statement on Monday, Mr Biden said military commanders unanimously favoured ending the airlift instead of extending it.
He said he had asked his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to coordinate with international partners to hold the Taliban to their promise of safe passage for Americans and others who wish to leave the country in the coming days.
The Taliban celebrated their victory over the US and NATO troops on Tuesday by firing guns into the air and enforcing their Islamist rule.
Footage emerged of a fake funeral the Taliban held for US and NATO forces in Khost, following the US withdrawal from Kabul.
Images show hundreds of people gathered around coffins draped with UK and US flags, with the Taliban’s banner strung across a building nearby.
While information about the gathering is scarce, it appears to mock the departure of Western forces.
It comes as details emerged of the last call between President Biden and his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani.
During the call on 23 July, neither of the leaders appeared to be prepared for the Taliban’s surge across Afghanistan and the collapse of its government 23 days later.
“We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” Mr Biden said.
President Biden also praised the Afghan armed forces, which collapsed amid pressure from the Taliban despite having been trained and funded by the US.
“You clearly have the best military,” he told Mr Ghani. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well.”