President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Wednesday that the U.S. will finish the full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke with the Washington Post.
On the same day Biden officially announced the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline, the Taliban issued a warning that it expects the U.S. to meet an existing May 1 deadline to leave the country, or else those U.S. troops still remaining will “bear the responsibility for that.”
Biden’s toop withdrawal deadline pushes back Donald Trump’s administration in the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. The Biden administration’s plans will instead see the U.S. pull out from Afghanistan by the 20-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terror attacks, which set off the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the wider Global War on Terror.
On Wednesday, the Taliban launched a rocket attack targeting a U.S. base in Kandahar. While the rockets fell outside of the U.S. base and caused no casualties, the Taliban has warned that it would resume attacks against U.S. forces if the Biden administration misses the May 1 deadline.
When the Trump administration signed the U.S.-Taliban deal, about 13,000 U.S. troops were still present in the country. The Trump administration gradually pulled thousands of troops from the country in the ensuing months and on Jan. 15, the Pentagon announced there were just 2,500 U.S. troops remaining in the country.
The 2,500 U.S. troop figure has been challenged since the New York Times reported in March that the Pentagon had failed to disclose an extra 1,000 U.S. troops still stationed in the country, potentially putting the true U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan at about 3,500.
In a March interview, Biden said the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline would be a “tough” one to meet and, with the deadline fast approaching, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the May 1 withdrawal deadline is “too soon.”
“Running for the exits pell-mell by May 1 is dangerous,” Smith said. “It is dangerous to our troops [and] I don’t want to leave a bunch of, you know, high-grade military equipment behind for whoever grabs it either.”
The Biden administration’s reported withdrawal plans come after the administration has reviewed its options for handling the Trump-era peace deal and the withdrawal deadline.
A source for the Washington Post said, “This is the immediate, practical reality that our policy review discovered. If we break the May 1st deadline negotiated by the previous administration with no clear plan to exit, we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest.”
Responding to the reports about the Afghanistan withdrawal plans, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “To say I’m concerned is a vast understatement—this is a reckless and dangerous decision. 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.”
Inhofe called on Biden to reconsider the decision to set a timeline.
Other commentators separately said Biden should have stuck with Trump’s May 1 deadline.
“While we still believe a full withdrawal by the May 1st deadline in the Doha agreement best serves America’s interests, we are pleased to hear President Biden is firmly committed to bringing our troops home within the next few months,” the Concerned Veterans for America said in a press statement. “America has more pressing priorities at home and elsewhere, and President Biden must keep his promise to end our endless war in Afghanistan.”
Concerned Veterans for America have advocated for an end to the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan, and have called for an end to U.S. military actions in conflict zones like Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and the horn of Africa.