President Biden is set to announce a plan Wednesday to withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the United States’ longest war.
The plan, which U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday, means that many of the few thousand troops in Afghanistan will remain after May 1, a deadline the Trump administration set last year in a deal with the Taliban.
But two decades after they arrived, U.S. troops appear all but certain to exit Afghanistan within five months, leaving the Afghan government to fight on largely alone against an enemy that has been gaining ground and that has balked at a U.S.-led push for a peace settlement.
“We will stand behind the diplomatic process, and we will use our full toolkit to ensure the future that the Afghan people are seeking has the best chance of coming about,” he said.
The official said the Taliban have also been warned not to attack withdrawing troops. “We have 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,” he said.
“At this point we have discussed the drawdown with our Nato allies and operational partners. We will remain in lockstep with them as we undergo this operation.”
Explaining why the Biden administration also concluded that withdrawal was the best option, the official said: “We have long known that military force would not solve Afghanistan’s internal political challenges; would not end Afghanistan’s internal conflict. And so, we are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting diplomatically.”