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President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Wednesday that the U.S. will finish the full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke with the Washington Post.
The reported troop drawdown timeline would see the Biden administration miss a May 1 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline set forth by President Donald Trump’s administration in the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. The Biden administration’s plans will instead see the U.S. pull out from Afghanistan by the 20-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terror attacks, which set off the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the wider Global War on Terror.
On Wednesday, the Taliban launched a rocket attack targeting a U.S. base in Kandahar. While the rockets fell outside of the U.S. base and caused no casualties, the Taliban has warned that it would resume attacks against U.S. forces if the Biden administration misses the May 1 deadline.
When the Trump administration signed the U.S.-Taliban deal, about 13,000 U.S. troops were still present in the country. The Trump administration gradually pulled thousands of troops from the country in the ensuing months and on Jan. 15, the Pentagon announced there were just 2,500 U.S. troops remaining in the country.
The 2,500 U.S. troop figure has been challenged since the New York Times reported in March that the Pentagon had failed to disclose an extra 1,000 U.S. troops still stationed in the country, potentially putting the true U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan at about 3,500.
In a March interview, Biden said the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline would be a “tough” one to meet and, with the deadline fast approaching, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the May 1 withdrawal deadline is “too soon.”
“Running for the exits pell-mell by May 1 is dangerous,” Smith said. “It is dangerous to our troops [and] I don’t want to leave a bunch of, you know, high-grade military equipment behind for whoever grabs it either.”
The Biden administration’s reported withdrawal plans come after the administration has reviewed its options for handling the Trump-era peace deal and the withdrawal deadline.
A source for the Washington Post said, “This is the immediate, practical reality that our policy review discovered. If we break the May 1st deadline negotiated by the previous administration with no clear plan to exit, we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest.”
American Military News