WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is considering keeping US troops in Afghanistan until November instead of withdrawing them by May 1, as stipulated in an agreement his predecessor negotiated with the Taliban, two with the Discussions trusted people.
In recent discussions with members of his national security team, Biden has opposed efforts by the Department of Defense to keep US troops in Afghanistan beyond May 1, one respondent said. But he was persuaded to consider an extension of six months.
« Biden wants out, » said one of the people familiar with the discussions. That person said the Pentagon leaders were advocating a case of the Taliban failing to honor the end of the deal and making the argument as, « Look, you own this now, Mr. President, and we cannot guarantee what will. » happen when we all just pull up steeply. «
The military has proposed several options, including withdrawing troops by or shortly before May 1, keeping troops in the country indefinitely, or keeping troops in Afghanistan for a period to be determined by Biden, which is a Six month extension could include second person familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment, referring to recent comments made by White House press secretary Jen Psaki on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan February Psaki said the question of whether troops should be withdrawn by May 1 was an ongoing discussion in the White House and that Biden disagreed with the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said a policy review was ongoing and that no decision had been made on future troop levels.
In an interv iew with ABC News, which aired Wednesday, Biden said he was considering when US troops would leave Afghanistan, admitting that a full withdrawal by May 1 would be « difficult ».
« I am in the process of making that decision about when to leave, « Biden said.
The decision bears some similarities to the internal debate that went on during the Obama administration as Vice-President of Biden, although far fewer troops were involved are. At the time, Biden strongly opposed sending tens of thousands of additional US troops to Afghanistan and instead called for a smaller anti-terrorist force that should focus solely on fighting al-Qaeda fighters. The small force Biden campaigned for at the time is roughly the size of the one that is now in Afghanistan.
The May 1st deadline is part of an agreement between the Taliban and the United States that Negotiated by the Trump administration and signed in Doha, Qatar last year. Under the deal, the US pledged to withdraw all troops by May in return for the Taliban’s agreement to open peace talks with their opponents in the Afghan government and for a commitment to ensure that Afghanistan is not used as a base for terrorist attacks on the US becomes US or its allies.
Any expansion of US troop presence beyond May 1 would likely have to be presented and negotiated with the Taliban, who have publicly stated that they will not accept any delay in US exit, said current and former officials. Otherwise, the Taliban could argue that the US is violating the Doha Accords and resuming an all-out war with US and NATO allies. Since the agreement was signed in February 2020, the Taliban have largely refrained from launching direct attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.
The US military said on Wednesday that it had been after several in the past 48 hours Taliban attacks on Afghan government security forces carried out air strikes against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, a military spokesman said in a tweet.
Pentagon officials acknowledge that the time is running out to meet the May 1 deadline, given the logistical challenges when transporting hardware through the country’s mountainous terrain.
The Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for the reconciliation of Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, took part in talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government and other prominent Afghans in Moscow on Thursday to to try to move forward with the stalled peace process. Representatives from Pakistan, Iran, India and China also took part.
Subsequently, the USA, Russia, China and Pakistan declared in a joint statement that they « call on the participants in the intra-Afghan negotiations to immediately discuss fundamental issues Resolving the conflict, including the foundations of a future peaceful and stable Afghan state, the content of a political roadmap leading to an inclusive government and the modalities of a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire. «
The Moscow meeting is scheduled for next month a major international conference will follow, hosted by Turkey. The conference is part of a wider diplomatic push by the Biden government to revive peace talks, but the two sides remain far apart.
Washington has proposed that the Taliban and Afghan leaders negotiate a power-sharing deal, the one Interim government that would be accompanied by a ceasefire. However, so far the Taliban have refused to approve a nationwide ceasefire and the Afghan government has raised concerns about the formation of a transitional government without holding elections.
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