Joe Biden will announce on Wednesday the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that triggered America’s decades-long presence in the country.
“After a rigorous policy review, President Biden has decided to withdraw the remaining troops in Afghanistan and finally end the American war there after 20 years,” a senior administration official said on Tuesday.
“We are going to start a orderly print remaining forces before May 1 and plan to remove all US troops from the country before the 20th anniversary of September 11, ”the official added.
Jennifer Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Biden will deliver a speech at the White House on Wednesday “on the way forward in Afghanistan.”
Psaki said the speech would include “Biden’s plans and timetable for the withdrawal of US troops in close coordination with our partners and allies and the Afghan government, and his commitment to focus on the threats and opportunities we face. in the world today ”.
“The president has been consistent in his opinion that there is no military solution to Afghanistan, that we have been there far too long,” Psaki added. “This has been his point of view for some time.”
The United States sent troops to Afghanistan in 2003 following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The number of troops in the country topped 100,000 after former President Barack Obama ordered a “push” to which then-US Vice President Biden opposed, before falling sharply during his second term.
Donald Trump has vowed to end America’s “never-ending wars” abroad, and his administration has gradually reduced the number of troops remaining in Afghanistan during his presidency.
In early 2020, the United States made a deal with the Taliban which offered a reduction in US troops in early May this year in exchange for less violence and a commitment by the Islamist group to cut all ties with Al Qaeda.
However, the deal failed to gain support from the Kabul government, which is reluctant to include the Taliban in a power-sharing agreement or settle grievances between political cliques.
The senior administration official said the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan would not be contingent on conclude an agreement with the government of Kabul or the Taliban.
“The president has ruled that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach for the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official added.
The news, which was first reported by the Washington Post, has been widely received by Democratic lawmakers.
Jack Reed, the Democratic Senator from Rhode Island who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he spoke to Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, about the decision on Monday.
“It will be a transition because we still have vital interests in protecting against terrorist attacks that may emanate from this region,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But there are also other places in the world to be aware of.”
He added: “I think, again, that we need to focus on what lies ahead, which is diplomatic engagement, engagement, hopefully, with the international community to provide resources for support the gains we have made. . . then a very, very determined anti-terrorist operation. “
But many Republicans criticized the move, with Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, saying: “The hasty withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is a big mistake. It is a retreat from an enemy that has not yet been defeated and an abdication of American leadership.
He added: “A reckless retreat like this would abandon our Afghan, regional and NATO partners in a common fight against terrorists that we have not yet won.”
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, and Austin are in Brussels this week for talks with NATO and EU leaders. There are some 10,000 troops from 36 NATO allies and partner nations currently in Afghanistan.
A NATO official said on Tuesday that the alliance’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg would discuss Afghanistan with Blinken and Austin on Wednesday.
“The Allies have been consulting closely on the way forward in Afghanistan for many months,” the official said.
Additional reporting by Michael Peel in Brussels