The US will not meet the May 1 deadline agreed upon by the Trump administration and the Taliban.
United States President Joe Biden will leave US troops in Afghanistan past the current May 1 deadline but will withdraw them by September 11, US officials said Tuesday.
“After a rigorous policy review, President Biden has decided to draw down the remaining troops in Afghanistan and finally end the US war there after 20 years,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The new withdrawal date is the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States, which triggered the war in Afghanistan. The Washington Post and New York Times have also reported on Biden’s modified withdrawal date.
Biden has been signaling that he would likely miss the May 1 deadline negotiated by the Donald Trump administration and the Taliban as it became clear that withdrawing the remaining 2,500 troops would be difficult and potentially unsafe.
US officials have also blamed the Taliban for failing to live up to commitments to reduce violence and some have warned about persistent Taliban links to al-Qaeda.
In a statement last month, the Taliban threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they did not meet the May 1 deadline.
But Biden would still set a near-term date with withdrawal, potentially allaying Taliban concerns that he would drag out the process.
The senior Biden administration official stressed that the pullout would not be subject to further conditions.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe in staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said.
The ultimate withdrawal would be based on certain security and human rights guarantees, sources told the Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the formalization of the decision. The sources did not provide further details.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to brief the decision to NATO allies in Brussels on Wednesday. Biden may also publicly announce his decision, the sources said.
Turkey announced on Tuesday it would host an Afghan meeting from April 24 to May 4 to jumpstart efforts to end the war and put together a possible political settlement.
The United Nations and Qatar are included in the event, and Turkey’s foreign ministry said the Afghan government and the Taliban will attend, but the Taliban said they had not committed to those dates.
On Monday the Taliban pulled out of an April 16 conference that was to have been held in Istanbul.
There are only about 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan currently, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2011. About 2,400 US service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.
Then-President George W Bush sent American forces into Afghanistan in 2001 to topple its Taliban leaders just weeks after the September 11 attacks. US forces tracked down and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 during the presidency of Bush’s successor Barack Obama.
With a US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 ordered by Bush, the American military began a period lasting years of fighting two large wars simultaneously, stretching its capabilities. US troops left Iraq in 2011 under Obama, though some were later deployed under President Donald Trump in response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants.