After concluding that there is no military solution to the security and political problems afflicting Afghanistan, President Joe Biden is determined to focus on more insistent national security challenges.
He will officially announce on Wednesday that US troops will pull out from the country prior to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, a senior administration official shared.
The withdrawal prolongs the US troop presence beyond a May 1 deadline set by the Trump administration in a settlement with the Taliban, but only by a matter of months.
Biden has been evaluating the decision for months with his advisers and nodded he did not believe US troops should stay in the country long past the deadline.
The senior administration official mentioned that NATO troops would also follow the same withdrawal timeline. It’s probable US troops will be withdrawn “well before” September 11, the official noted, saying the date was the last possible time when remaining personnel would leave.
The official shared that the US had communicated to the Taliban “in no uncertain terms” that attacks on US troops while in the withdrawal process would be met with retribution.
However, US forces’ withdrawal has risks attached, as Biden’s last two predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, tried but were eventually unable to untangle the US from the war in Afghanistan.
Senior military commanders have encouraged keeping US troops in the country and have argued that a premature withdrawal could lead to the Afghan government’s failure. A US intelligence community assessment released on Tuesday and warned that the Taliban was likely to make gains on the battlefield.
In discussions over the past month, Biden was “adamant” that a hurried withdrawal was not viable. But he arbitrated that remaining in the country much longer did not reflect the current global threat picture’s needs. Biden asked for a policy review that would comprise “genuine, realistic options” that would not “sugarcoat” that situation.
The official said that in comparison to previous efforts to set a US withdrawal date, Biden’s deadline was not conditions-based.
“The President has judged that a conditions-based approach, which is then the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever. And so he has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown, will remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11,” the senior official said.
US officials say that there are about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. The US isn’t forecasting to withdraw completely, as the senior administration official said some troops would stay in the country to provide diplomatic security. However, the exact number had not yet been agreed.