- President Joe Biden plans to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by September 11.
- The withdrawal deadline marks the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that pulled America into the war.
- “We’re going to zero troops by September,” a source told The Washington Post.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Biden administration plans to withdraw all American forces in Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks that dragged the US into a decades-long conflict, The Washington Post first reported Tuesday.
Though official estimates are lower, there are somewhere around 3,500 troops currently serving in Afghanistan, according to The New York Times.
“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,” a senior administration official said Tuesday, confirming The Post’s reporting.
Under the deal negotiated by the Trump administration with the Taliban, the US was expected to have all US forces out of the country by May 1.
“We have … long known that there is no military solution to the problems plaguing Afghanistan, and we will focus our efforts on supporting the ongoing peace process,” the official said Tuesday.
“That means putting the full weight of our government behind diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but what we will not do is use our troops as bargaining chips in that process,” the official added.
In March, Biden said that “it’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” explaining that for tactical reasons, “it’s hard to get those troops out.” He stressed, though, that “it is not my intention to stay there for a long time.”
The next day, the Taliban said that “if God forbid, all foreign troops [do] not withdraw from Afghanistan on the specified date,” then the insurgent force “will be compelled to defend its religion and homeland and continue its Jihad and armed struggle against foreign forces to liberate its country.”
It’s unclear if the Taliban will follow through on that threat with the new September deadline, but the administration is hopeful the new plan will prevent renewed fighting.
“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,” a person familiar with the planning told The Post. “We’re going to zero troops by September.”
The senior administration official said Tuesday that the US has “told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that any attacks on US troops as we undergo a safe and orderly withdrawal will be met with a forceful response.”
The original agreement for a full withdrawal by May 1 was conditions-based, requiring all sides to “demonstrate their commitment to advancing the peace process.”
US military leaders have repeatedly said that the Taliban has not lived up to these commitments. Biden’s plan to withdraw, however, “is not conditions-based,” the official said Tuesday.
“The president has judged that conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official added.
The official said the September 11 deadline was set largely due to “operational and logistical issues related to ensuring that we have a safe and orderly withdrawal” and that it may be “completed well in advance” of that date.
The US will also coordinate with NATO allies and partners about the drawdown of their forces over the same time period, the official added.
The war in Afghanistan, which began on October 7, 2001, has been America’s longest-running conflict. The US has been steadily pulling troops out of the country amid negotiations with the Taliban.
The plan to pull troops out by September comes as the US shifts its focus to what are considered to be higher-level threats, such as rivals like China and Russia.
“Afghanistan just does not rise to the level of those other threats at this point,” The Post’s source said, adding that the US would “remain committed diplomatically” in Afghanistan.
Biden has determined “that the best path forward to advance American interests is to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years so that we can address the global threat picture as it exists today, not as it was two decades ago,” the official said Tuesday.