Bureau Report + Agencies
WASHINGTON/ KABUL/ ISLAMABAD: United States President Joe Biden will leave US troops in Afghanistan past the current May 1 deadline but will withdraw them by September 11, US officials said on Tuesday.
“After a rigorous policy review, President Biden has decided to draw down the remaining troops in Afghanistan and finally end the US war there after 20 years,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The new withdrawal date is the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States, which triggered the war in Afghanistan. The Washington Post and New York Times have also reported on Biden’s modified withdrawal date.
Biden, who will lay out his plan during a speech on Wednesday, has been signaling that he would likely miss the May 1 deadline negotiated by the Donald Trump administration and the Taliban as it became clear that withdrawing the remaining 2,500 troops would be difficult and potentially unsafe.
In a statement last month, the Taliban threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they did not meet the May 1 deadline but Biden will still set a near-term date for withdrawal, potentially allaying Taliban concerns that he would drag out the process.
The senior Biden administration official stressed that the pullout would not be subject to further conditions.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe in staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said.
The ultimate withdrawal would be based on certain security and human rights guarantees, sources told the Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the formalization of the decision.
“The president’s approach and his decision that he made was done through close consultation with military leaders, with his national security team, with partners and allies around the world, and with his objective in mind of ensuring we are focusing on the threats we’re facing, we’re doing that in close coordination with our partners and allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
The Taliban declined to comment to Reuters about Biden’s decision, saying the group has not been notified of the US decision.
Meanwhile, officials in Afghanistan are bracing for the withdrawal.
“We will have to survive the impact of it and it should not be considered as Taliban’s victory or takeover,” said a senior Afghan government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.