As agreed by the Trump administration, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that it would be “tough” to meet the May 1 deadline for a troop pullout from Afghanistan.
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Mr. Biden said he was still “in the process” of determining when the forces should leave.
“The fact is that this was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the former president worked out. And so, we’re in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision’s going to be — it’s in the process now.”He said.
The Biden administration announced earlier this week that it was sending its special envoy for Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, to an Afghan peace conference in Moscow, which begins on Thursday. Pakistan is also attending the conference.
Ambassador Khalilzad said in a tweet, on Tuesday that he was wrapping up his second, two-day visit to Kabul during which he discussed “the latest developments on the (Afghan) peace process with President Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, and a wide range of other leaders, including those in civil society and advocates of women’s rights”.
Ambassador Khalilzad spent several days in Doha, Qatar, after his first visit to Kabul last week, discussing the peace process with senior Taliban leaders. He also visited Islamabad last Sunday where he held a series of meetings with senior civil and military leaders and sought Pakistan’s “continued support” for his efforts to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.
In February 2020, the US had more than 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2011.
Now 2,500 troops remain, although the New York Times reported last week that about 1,000 more Special Operations forces were also in the country.
Asked how long US troops could remain in Afghanistan, President Biden said, “I don’t think a lot longer,” adding that the May 1 deadline “could happen, but it is tough.”
In a series of tweets after his first visit to the region as Mr. Biden’s envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad said he was “encouraged by the fact that all political figures endorse efforts to accelerate the peace process.”
The Afghan leaders had also agreed to “attend or send delegates to upcoming international engagements for a lasting political settlement and permanent ceasefire.”He said.
However, a US scholar David Andelman told CNN on Wednesday he believed the Biden administration realized that “US troops will need to stay in Afghanistan for a very long time” but was reluctant to share this realization with the American people.