International troops plan to remain in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline, raising concerns that tensions in the country could escalate.
The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May so that the insurgents could meet certain security guarantees.
Trump hailed the deal – which did not include the Afghan government – as the end of two decades of war.
He reduced the US troops to 2,500 by that month, the fewest since 2001.
Now four high-ranking NATO officials have stated that not all troops will be removed from the country by the end of April.
“There won’t be a full Allied withdrawal by the end of April,” one official told Reuters.
“The conditions were not met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“And with the new US administration, there will be changes in policy, the prevailing sense of hasty withdrawal will be addressed, and we could see a much calculated exit strategy.”
By October around 12,000 employees from 38 NATO member states and partner countries were in support of the Determined support mission in Afghanistan.
According to NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu, that number has since dropped to 10,000.
On October 7, 2021, 20 years will have passed since the US entered Afghanistan.
Plans for what will happen after April are currently under review and should be a major topic at a major NATO meeting in February, NATO sources said.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in Doha in September, but violence remains high.
“No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we were aware that our presence would continue to be conditional,” said Lungescu.
“The allies continue to assess the overall situation and consult the way forward.”
Kabul and some foreign governments and agencies say so
The Taliban have failed to meet the conditions due to escalating violence and a lack of ties with militant groups such as al-Qaeda who deny the Taliban.
Joe Biden’s administration, who replaced Trump on Jan. 20, has launched a review of his predecessor’s peace deal.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Taliban had failed to honor its commitments, but Washington remained committed to the process and had not made a decision on future troop levels.
The Taliban have been increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the possibility of Washington changing aspects of the deal and keeping troops in the country beyond May, two Taliban sources told Reuters.
“We have conveyed our fears, but they have assured us that they will respect and obey the Doha Agreement,” said a Taliban leader in Doha.
“What is going on in Afghanistan shows something different.
“And that’s why we decided to send our delegations to trust our allies.”