The United States plans to withdraw the remaining American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.
U.S. officials noted that the withdrawal would be 20 years to the day after the terrorist group al Qaeda launched attacks on the United States.
The decision extends an earlier time limit set last year. A peace deal between the administration of former President Donald Trump and Afghanistan’s Taliban called for a full withdrawal by May 1. Negotiations between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban continue. The Taliban has threated to restart fighting if foreign troops do not leave.
An official with President Joe Biden’s administration said the date in September is firm and will not be affected by conditions in the country. The official, who spoke to reporters, did not wish to be identified.
The official said: "…We are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting diplomatically the ongoing peace process."
The withdrawal would end nearly 20 years of war that have claimed the lives of 2,200 U.S. troops, injured 20,000 and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
The conflict drove the Taliban, Afghanistan’s rulers at the time, from power. It also led to the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
However, some groups say the withdrawal risks gains in democracy, women’s rights and governance made in the country.
The administration said Biden will likely announce his decision Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to discuss the move with NATO allies also on Wednesday.
The reports of the Biden decision come on the same day that a U.S. intelligence report predicted a difficult path for Afghan peace talks. It said that the Afghan government would struggle to hold back the Taliban without support from the U.S.-led coalition.
It is unclear how the announcement might affect an Afghanistan Peace Summit that Turkey plans to hold in Istanbul in late April.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said Afghan and Taliban negotiators would attend. However, the Taliban has not confirmed the suggested dates.
Michael O’Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program. He told VOA that Afghanistan “could become one of the great No Man’s lands for international terrorists to hide out in the future.”
Hussain Haqqani is a former ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. He said, “The real question now is whether after withdrawing its troops, the U.S. will continue to help the Kabul government and the Afghan people keep the Taliban at bay.”
U.S. officials have blamed the Taliban for not fulfilling its promises to reduce violence. Some have warned of the group’s ties to al-Qaeda.
Those ties led to the U.S. military intervention in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the U.S. that took nearly 3,000 lives. That was when hijackers crashed passenger jets into the World Trade Center in New York City, the U.S. Defense Department outside of Washington and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I’m Mario Ritter,Jr.
Steve Herman reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English with additions from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
focus –v. to cause attention to be directed on something
at bay –idiom in a position of being unable to move closer while attacking or approaching someone else
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