Biden says USA to leave Afghanistan on September 11

Darnell Taylor
April 14, 2021

Joe Biden has planned to withdraw all remaining USA troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

The US would miss a May deadline for a pullout agreed with the Taliban by the Trump administration previous year.

The Trump administration had aimed to have all American forces out of Afghanistan, where the Taliban retains significant power, by May 1, if certain conditions in its negotiations with the Taliban were met. The Taliban has threatened to resume attacks on coalition forces once the original deadline expires.

But it would still set a near-term date with withdrawal, potentially allaying Taliban concerns that Biden would drag out the process.

Biden's decision came just as Turkey announced the dates of a peace conference on Afghanistan that would bring together the government, the Taliban and worldwide partners - though, again, would include few women.

Mr Biden had previously said the 1 May deadline would be tough to meet. Significantly, it will not would be subject to further conditions, including security or human rights.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced later Tuesday that the president would deliver remarks laying out his troop withdrawal plans on Wednesday.

Some 2,500 US troops remain in Afghanistan, and as many as 1,000 more Special Operations forces are also reported to be in the country.

"We are not staying for a long time".

The official spoke shortly after USA intelligence released a threat assessment report warning that the embattled Afghan government "will struggle" to hold off the "confident" Taliban if the US-led coalition withdraws.

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Asked why the deadline is being moved so far ahead of the previous May timeline when the USA could remove its roughly 2,500 troops before that, the official said the extra time is to allow all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces "the time and space they need to conduct a safe and orderly withdrawal".

The 1 May deadline had already started to appear less and less likely in recent weeks, given the lack of preparations on the ground to ensure it could be done in a safe and responsible way.

The official warned the Taliban, who are observing a truce with United States but not Afghan forces, not to strike coalition forces as they leave.

It was those ties that triggered USA military intervention in 2001 following Al Qaeda's September 11 attacks, when hijackers slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, killing nearly 3 000 people.

The senior administration official said that the withdrawal would not be conditions-based.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of planning to "turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan". Some US forces will remain in Afghanistan to protect the US embassy, though the exact number is not yet known, the official said.

Delay may lead to increased attacks In November, the U.S. announced plans to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from more than 4,500 to 2,500.

Officials in Afghanistan are bracing for the withdrawal. A threat assessment report published Tuesday by the director of national intelligence said the Taliban "is confident it can achieve military victory".

Although successive United States presidents sought to extricate themselves from Afghanistan, those hopes were confounded by concerns about Afghan security forces, endemic corruption in Afghanistan and the resiliency of a Taliban insurgency that enjoyed safe haven across the border in Pakistan.

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