President Joe Biden is giving his clearest signal to date that he will not meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw all US troops.
US President Joe Biden said he “couldn’t imagine” US troops still in Afghanistan next year, but did not offer a specific timeline as to when the pullout would take place.
All eyes are on Washington as Biden decides whether his country will leave the war-torn country by May 1, under a deal with the Taliban group, or stay put.
As part of the February 2020 deal brokered by the administration of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the United States pledged to withdraw the 2,500 American troops remaining in Afghanistan.
In return, the Taliban pledged to renounce violence, to prevent groups like al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base from which to attack US and allied targets and to start intra-Afghan peace talks.
Yet violence continues to plague the South Asian country, including a recent increase in the deliberate killings of journalists, aid workers and government workers.
“It will be difficult to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said during his first official press conference for his White House presidency on Thursday.
Justifying the delay, he underlined the “tactical” difficulties and the need to consult the allies who also have forces in Afghanistan.
When asked if he plans to have US troops still in Afghanistan in 2022, the president replied, “I can’t imagine that is the case.”
He also alluded to doubts about the US-Taliban deal reached in early 2020, saying it seemed “unresolvable”.
“If we leave, we will do so in a safe and orderly manner,” he said.
Biden’s comments come as his administration works to step up international pressure on the Taliban and the US-backed government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reach a peace deal and ceasefire – fire before the May 1 deadline.
The Taliban have indicated they could resume attacks on foreign troops if Biden misses the deadline.
Germany extends its mission
Meanwhile, Germany has paved the way for its troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline that the United States approved last year with the Taliban for the withdrawal of American forces.
Lawmakers on Thursday evening approved a new mandate that allows the German military to maintain up to 1,300 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission until January 31, 2022.
The current parliamentary mandate for the German operation expires at the end of March.
The German government has warned that a premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardize intra-Afghan peace talks, adding that NATO troops should prepare for Taliban violence if they stay beyond from the end of April.