Biden will wait until September 11 to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan


GOP senators on Tuesday had mixed reactions to reports about President Joe Biden's planned announcement on Wednesday to withdraw all United States troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to brief the decision to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies in Brussels on Wednesday. Biden plans to make the announcement this week.

The reports prompted criticism from Republican lawmakers on Tuesday.

The other alliance members have said they would not remain in Afghanistan without USA troops there.

The extended timeline will allow a safe and orderly withdrawal of American troops in co-ordination with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, the administration official added.

In a statement last month, the Taliban threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they did not meet the 1 May deadline.

"We have communicated to the Taliban in no uncertain terms, that if they do conduct attacks against USA or allied forces as we carry out this drawdown ... that we will hit back hard and we will hold them accountable for that", the official said. Unnamed sources told the Washinton Post that President Biden is expected to announce the move on Wednesday.

"I applaud President Biden for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending a forever war".

GOP hawks, on the other hand, were quick to deride the decision as premature and short-sighted and called on Biden to reconsider.

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Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed it as a "reckless and unsafe decision".

The administration official said Biden decided that the withdrawal deadline had to be absolute, rather than based on conditions on the ground.

Experts warn that regional warlords are preparing for civil war. "We're talking about protecting American lives here".

"It's going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline", Mr Biden said in late March. It's unclear if the Taliban will follow through on those threats in light of Biden's plan to withdraw troops completely by September 11, 2021 instead. But he added that he "can't picture" troops on the ground in Afghanistan next year. We are going to remain committed to the government, remain committed diplomatically.

Over the past year, USA military commanders and defence officials have said that attacks on US troops have largely paused, but they say the Taliban have increased attacks on the Afghans. The roughly 3,500 troops could be airlifted out fairly quickly, but a rushed exit would pose force-protection challenges and necessitate destroying sensitive equipment or leaving it in the hands of the Afghan security forces.

"The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support", the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community noted in a recent report. And we've been unable to broker a successful conclusion to the molasses-like negotiations between the Afghan government and a resurgent Taliban.

The Taliban haven't commented yet on Biden's decision to keep troops in the country, but they've said previously that an extension of the US presence after the May deadline would provoke a response, without elaborating further.

But still, there is a growing sense that "it's been 20 years, how much GDP and how much treasure and blood are we going to throw at this impossible problem?"

The U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies had signed a deal with the Taliban in February past year to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan if the Taliban met certain preconditions, including a cessation of violence (the Taliban has repeatedly attacked on civilians and Afghan security forces since) and not turning the country into a haven for terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda.

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