President Biden plans to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11 2021, extending Trump’s initial May 1 deadline. The decision is expected to be announced this week and will be brief to NATO allies in Brussels by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The May 1 timetable was established in an agreement the Trump administration made with the Taliban in February 2020. Acknowledging a military stalemate after 19 years of conflict, the U.S. signed this peace agreement with the Taliban intending to end America’s longest war and bring home service members from Afghanistan. The agreement anticipated the withdrawal of all U.S. and allied forces over a 14-month period and would allow President Trump to keep a significant campaign pledge to end America’s “endless wars.”
The decision to extend the troop withdrawal deadline may prompt the Taliban to perpetuate more attacks on the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops on the ground. Last month, the Taliban threatened to revive hostilities against foreign troops if the May 1 deadline was not honored.
A Biden administration official said the withdrawal of troops will not be contingent on further conditions. “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said.
This decision is consistent with the America First foreign policy approach of President Trump to get American troops out of “forever wars” that are costing the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars per year with no U.S. withdrawal date in sight.
Some Republican members of Congress expressed concern that Biden’s decision to extend the deadline is premature. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) knocked Biden’s announcement as “devilishly dangerous.” Graham added that “A residual counterterrorism force would be an insurance policy against the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan that could pave the way for another attack against our homeland or our allies.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) mirrored Graham’s concern. “No one wants a forever war, but I’ve consistently said any withdrawal must be conditions-based. Arbitrary deadlines would likely put our troops in danger, jeopardize all the progress we’ve made, and lead to civil war in Afghanistan — and create a breeding ground for international terrorists. We’re talking about protecting American lives here.”
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also expressed a desire to get U.S. troops home, but is wary that the U.S. “doesn’t lose what we were seeking to achieve.”
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