President Biden is considering extending the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by six months until November past the planned May 1 withdrawal date. Currently, the U.S. is slated to leave in less than six weeks, according to the deal that the Trump administration made with the Taliban.
The president is against the Pentagon’s desire to keep troops in the country but has been reportedly open to considering a six-month extension according to reports coming out of Washington.
President Biden gave an interview to ABC News on Wednesday. He said that meeting the May 1 deadline “could happen, but it is tough.” If the deadline is extended, he added, it won’t be by “a lot longer.”
“I’m in the process of making that decision now as to when they’ll leave.”
“That was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president worked out,” Biden said of the deal that former President Trump made with the Taliban. President Biden added that he expects to meet with our NATO allies and discuss the actual pace of the drawdown.
Obviously, the sticking point for the administration is the conditions to which the Taliban are supposed to be adhering — yet, they are most definitely not doing that.
“Without them meeting their commitments to renounce terrorism and to stop the violent attacks on the Afghan national security forces ― and by dint of that, the Afghan people ― it’s very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a press briefing last week. “But we’re still committed to that,” he added.
According to NBC, the president’s administration has presented him with three options: First, keeping the timetable of withdrawal and pulling all of the troops out of Afghanistan at or very close to the May 1 deadline. Second, open-endedly extending the U.S. involvement. Third, extending the troops’ stay for a defined period of time, and six months seem to be the duration agreed upon.
Under the Trump peace agreement, the U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 1. However, in return for the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban agreed to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government and commit to ensuring that Afghanistan is not used as a staging ground for further terrorist attacks against the U.S. or its allies. Further, they were supposed to sever ties with al-Qaeda which had orchestrated its 9/11 attacks against the U.S. from Afghanistan. The Taliban insist that al-Qaeda isn’t in Afghanistan.
The security forces and military in Afghanistan are nowhere near ready enough to handle the Taliban situation despite years of training, advising, and equipping by the United States and our coalition allies.
Afghan troops are still very reliant on coalition airpower, as evidenced by the recent airstrikes conducted by USAF aircraft on Taliban troops in southern Afghanistan after they had conducted several attacks on Afghan government bases.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett posted on Twitter that the U.S. airstrikes targeted Taliban fighters in the Zharay, Spin Boldak, and Kandahar districts of Kandahar province as they were “actively attacking and maneuvering on” Afghan troops.
USFOR-A conducted airstrikes w/in the last 48 hrs targeting TB fighters actively attacking & maneuvering on ANDSF positions in Zharay, Spin Boldak & Kandahar Districts, Kandahar. TB claims otherwise are false. The US continues to defend ANDSF in accordance w/ the US-TB agreement.
— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) March 17, 2021
“The U.S. continues to defend [Afghan forces] in accordance [with the U.S.-Taliban] agreement,” Leggett added on Twitter.
The big question that the administration will have to ask themselves is, if the Afghanistan government and military aren’t prepared to handle their own security concerns now, will that change in the next six months?
If anything, the security situation, with the Taliban attacking large population centers, will only grow worse.