Washington: US President Joe Biden plans to present on Wednesday the details of his plans to have all American troops out of war-torn Afghanistan by September 11 this year, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York.
Ahead of a formal announcement, a senior official said Biden has decided to draw down the remaining US troops from Afghanistan and finally end the US war there after 20 years. There are currently 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.
“The president will deliver remarks tomorrow on the way forward in Afghanistan, including plans and timeline for withdrawing US troops in close coordination with our partners, allies and the Afghan government, also his commitment to focusing on threats and opportunities we face around the world,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
According to an official, Biden has reached a conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown and remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11.
“We will begin an orderly drawdown of the remaining forces before May 1 and plan to have all US troops out of the country before the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” the official said.
He said the withdrawal of troops is not conditions-based.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the case in the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” said the senior official.
At her daily briefing on Tuesday, Psaki said Biden has been consistent in his view that there is not a military solution to Afghanistan and that the US has been there for far too long.
“He believes and remains committed to supporting negotiations between the parties which are resuming next week. He also believes we need to focus our resources on fighting the threats we face today, almost 20 years after the war began… He will lay out more specifics tomorrow,” she said.
According to a State Department official, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently reached out to more than two dozen members of Congress, NATO allies, international partners and former government officials to outline the administration’s approach on Afghanistan.
Among the foreign leaders Blinken has spoken to recently, are his counterparts from Canada, Netherlands, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He has also spoken to European Union High Representatives and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.
The Republican Party has, however, slammed Biden for his decision on Afghanistan, claiming that this was a grave mistake.
“A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, cancelled an insurance policy against another 9/11.
“A residual counterterrorism force would be an insurance policy against the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan that could pave the way for another attack against our homeland or our allies,” Senator Lindsey Graham said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that “precipitously withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake”. He termed it a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership.
“Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the previous administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. Those same voices in both parties should be equally concerned about Biden administration’s announcement,” he said.
“A reckless pullback like this would abandon our Afghan, regional and NATO partners in a shared fight against terrorists that we have not yet won,” McConnell said.
The Democrats, however, applauded the president’s decision with Congressman Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee saying it is time to bring back the troops.
“I understand that bringing our remaining troops home will entail risk, as the Taliban will be required to uphold its commitment not to allow groups like al-Qaeda to operate on Afghan soil. However, the time has come to test the Taliban’s commitment to these conditions and its ability to uphold its promises,” he said.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “President Biden’s anticipated announcement that we will conclude the US military mission in Afghanistan reflects the reality that our continued troop presence after 20 years of war is no longer in the United States’ best interest.”
Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, the deputy whip of Progressive Caucus and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, applauded Biden for ending a “forever war”.
“It is an act of extraordinary political courage and vision. After 20 years, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent, we are finally bringing home our troops from Afghanistan,” Khanna said.
President Biden campaigned on this popular policy and is now delivering on that promise. I’m hopeful this policy change, in accordance with US commitments under the Doha agreement, will help bring peace to a country that for decades has been ravaged by war. Only through diplomacy and negotiations will the war in Afghanistan, which has taken the lives of thousands of civilians, come to an end.” PTI LKJ