White House: Biden will withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11

The president will make an official statement to that effect Wednesday, a Biden administration source said

President Joe Biden has decided to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that sparked the longest military conflict involving the United States. A senior White House official told reporters this on Tuesday.

According to Agence France-Presse, President Biden will make an official statement on the matter on Wednesday. Earlier, the president had considered keeping a small contingent in Afghanistan to fight the terrorist groups of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. In addition, the option of linking the troop withdrawal to progress in peace talks between the Taliban and official Kabul was considered.

In the end, the president decided to order a full withdrawal, except for limited personnel to guard U.S. facilities in Afghanistan, including the U.S. embassy in Kabul, a White House spokesman said.

“The president has decided that the approach … that has been taken over the past two decades is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” an administration source said.

Under a deal struck by former President Donald Trump’s administration with the Taliban in February 2020, all U.S. troops were to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for a promise by the Taliban not to support al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

A Biden administration spokesman said the withdrawal would begin in May and that the delay was due to logistical issues, specifying that troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan well before Sept. 11. However, the source warned the Taliban not to allow strikes against coalition forces after the American withdrawal, warning of an imminent “retaliatory strike” against any such attack.

Ten years ago, the United States deployed about 100,000 troops to Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama’s surge strategy to defeat the Taliban. By the end of Trump’s presidency, the number of U.S. troops in that country was down to 2,500.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, a Biden ally, said the United States achieved its primary goal 10 years ago by eliminating Osama bin Laden, adding that it was time to “refocus American national security on the most pressing challenges we face.”

At the same time, Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “shocked and appalled” by Biden’s decision. The withdrawal, according to McCaul, means “withdrawal of support from our Afghan partners during critical peace talks and… a complete victory for the Taliban.”

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