WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce Wednesday that the United States will withdraw its troops entirely from Afghanistan by September 11th. This is a symbolic deadline for the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, senior government officials said Tuesday.
Troop withdrawal will begin before May 1, the deadline for full withdrawal as set out in an agreement the Trump administration has made with the Taliban, a senior government official said. The US says there are around 2,500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.
In his afternoon remarks, Biden will point out that there is no military solution to the problems plaguing the country where threats have changed and al-Qaeda is no longer what it used to be, a White House official said across from NBC News.
The president will also say that he has pledged to withdraw US troops in coordination with allies and partners, and advocates diplomacy in the region.
Biden’s decision comes after a three-month review of Afghanistan policy. The senior government official said the review found that any national security threat from Afghanistan is at “a level that we can address without a persistent military footprint in the country and without waging war against the Taliban.”
“This withdrawal can be completed well before September 11th,” the official said. Any remaining US troops in Afghanistan would be a number the government, in consultation with allies, deems necessary to protect American diplomats in the country, the official said.
The official said they shared the president’s decision with NATO allies this week. The official said the government is determined to help safeguard the rights women have achieved since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001, but it is unclear how the US will ensure this.
The decision was first reported by the Washington Post.
The response to the President’s decision on Capitol Hill was mixed.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Called the strategy “a disaster in the making”.
“A complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is more stupid than filth and devilishly dangerous,” Graham said in a statement. “President Biden will essentially have canceled an insurance policy for another September 11th.”
Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah expressed support for the withdrawal.
“I’m glad we’re moving out,” Lee told reporters on Tuesday. “I want us to get out of there, and withdrawing in time seems like a good thing.”
The US will maintain military assets in the region to counter terrorist threats and to keep the Taliban up to date with its commitments, including severing ties with al-Qaeda. The senior civil servant who briefed reporters of Biden’s decision said any Taliban attack on US or Allied forces during the drawdown “will be met with a firm response.”
As part of the deal signed with the Taliban last year, the US pledged to withdraw all troops by May 1 in order to gain the group’s approval to start peace talks with their opponents in the Afghan government and to commit to safeguarding Afghanistan not as Scene used for terrorist attacks on the US or its allies. The Taliban have stated that the group is under no obligation to uphold the end of the deal if the US fails to honor this agreement.
Since taking office, Biden has refused to hold troops in Afghanistan indefinitely, senior administration officials said, and military officials had convinced him to consider an extension of up to six months.
After receiving several options from the Pentagon, Biden pondered the decision for weeks and frustrated some in the military, NBC News reported. The president’s final decision to withdraw by September 11 underscores his desire to mark the symbolic anniversary of the attacks by ending a war he long believed should end.
“We went to Afghanistan to bring justice to those who attacked us on September 11th and to disrupt terrorists who want to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack the United States,” the official said. “We believe we achieved this goal a few years ago.”
“The President firmly believes that in the fight against the threats and challenges of 2021, as opposed to those of 2001, we must focus our energy, our resources, our personnel, the time of our foreign policy and the national security leadership on these threats and challenges, which are most acute for the United States, “the official said, citing China, a global pandemic and terrorism. “And for that we have to close the book about a 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.”
The official said other troops from allied countries serving in Afghanistan would also withdraw.
“President Biden will give our military commanders the time and space to conduct a safe and orderly withdrawal, not only of the US forces but also of the Allied forces on a togetherness basis,” the official said. “And so we’re going to take the time it takes to do that, not more time than that.”
Elyse Mother-of-Pearl Gumbiner contributed.