The Biden administration is hinting that it plans on leaving several thousand American soldiers in Afghanistan past the May 1st withdrawal date that Trump negotiated with the Taliban.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that it “will be tough” to meet that deadline and withdraw all 2,500 remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“It’s now April 5th. The Afghanistan decision is due soon. Obviously, troops and their families are interested to know what the president’s decision will be. What more does he need before he can make or announce this decision?” a reporter asked Psaki during a briefing.
Rather than answering the question, she said, “As the president has said before, it will be tough to meet the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal for logistical reasons.”
“He’s continuing to consult internally with his national security team and advisers and, of course, also with our partners and allies. And, you know, he has not — he’s been working on these issues, foreign policy issues, national security issues for several decades now, and, of course, wants to take the time to make the right decision,” she continued.
Last month, Biden predicted that U.S. troops would not all by pulled out by May 1st.
“For tactical reasons, it’s going to be hard to get those troops out,” he said at his first press conference. “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the administration still wants to see a negotiated settlement to the end of the war.
“We still want to see a negotiated settlement to the end of this war. And it’s clear to us here at the Department of Defense that our colleagues at the State Department and our negotiators are taking this seriously, and they continue to try to press for a diplomatic solution,” he said.
“I think clearly, as the President himself has indicated, it’s going to be tough to meet May 1st as a deadline for the complete withdrawal. Logistically just tough to make,” he continued. “That said, the review is ongoing. The President hasn’t made a decision one way or the other about force levels in Afghanistan or missions in Afghanistan.”
After Biden’s press conference, a Taliban spokesperson said that if the U.S. does not abide by its obligations, they will consider it a break in the agreement.
“There is no specific condition for the cancellation of the agreement made in Doha. But of course, if either side does not abide by its obligations, it means breaking the agreement itself, and such are conditions,” said Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar.
“Both we and the Americans wanted to end this war. Ending the war was the common goal, so there was no need to start the war again. But now that the other side is not adhering to it or showing such signs, it is their problem,” he said in an interview.
The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 when al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was Saudi, planned the 9/11 attacks against the U.S. from a safe haven inside Afghanistan.
Shortly after, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and routed the Taliban government, which had given safe haven to bin Laden.
In 2012, then-Vice President Biden promised that U.S. troops would leave in 2014. However, the Obama administration left office in 2016 with 8,600 U.S. troops still in the country.
Trump reduced their number to 2,500 troops upon leaving office, with a goal to withdraw all troops by May 1, 2021.