WASHINGTON – President Biden will withdraw American combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11, declare the end of the nation’s longest war and override warnings from his military advisers that the withdrawal could re-emerge the same terrorist threats that dispatched hundreds of thousands of troops in the last 20 years in the fight.
When Mr Biden rejected the Pentagon’s urge to stay long enough for the Afghan security forces to prevail against the Taliban, he forcibly shaped his views on a policy he discussed for a long time but never controlled. Now, after years of fighting against an expanded American military presence in Afghanistan, the president is doing things his way, setting the deadline for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
A senior government official from Biden said the president had come to believe that a “state-based approach” would mean that American troops would never leave the country. The announcement is expected on Wednesday.
Mr Biden’s decision would pull all American troops out of Afghanistan 20 years after President George W. Bush’s orders following the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, with the aim of bringing on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida supporters to punish. who were protected in Afghanistan by their Taliban hosts.
The war started with widespread international support – but it became the same long, bloody, unpopular slogan that forced the British to withdraw from Afghanistan in the 19th century and the Soviet Union to withdraw in the 20th century.
Nearly 2,400 American troops were killed in Afghanistan in a conflict that cost approximately $ 2 trillion. Mr Biden’s Democratic supporters in Congress praised the withdrawal, even though Republicans said it would jeopardize American security.
“The US went to Afghanistan in 2001 to defeat those who attacked the US on September 11th,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said in a statement. “The time now is to bring our troops home, maintain humanitarian and diplomatic support for a partner nation, and focus US national security on the most pressing challenges we face.”
Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of the progressive veterans group VoteVets, said, that “Words cannot adequately express how great this is for troops and military families that have endured mission after mission for almost two decades with no end in sight.”
But Mr Biden’s decision drew fire from Republicans.
“This is a ruthless and dangerous decision,” said Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “Arbitrary deadlines would likely put our troops at risk, jeopardize any progress we have made and lead to civil war in Afghanistan – and breeding ground for international terrorists.”
President Donald J. Trump had set a May 1 withdrawal deadline but was known to announce and reverse a number of key foreign policy decisions, and Pentagon officials continued to press for a delay. Long skeptical of the Afghan operation, Mr Biden spent his first three months in office evaluating this schedule.
The Afghan central government is unable to halt the Taliban’s progress, and American officials offer dire assessments of the prospects for peace in the country. Still, American intelligence agencies say they do not believe that al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups pose an imminent threat to the United States’ strike out of Afghanistan. This assessment was critical to the Biden government as it decided to withdraw most of the remaining armed forces from the country.
A senior administration official said troop withdrawal will begin before May 1 and end before the symbolic date of September 11. All attacks on the withdrawal of NATO troops would be responded to with a vigorous response.
Taliban leaders have long promised that any breach of the deadline will result in their forces attacking American and coalition forces again. Under a withdrawal agreement negotiated during the Trump administration, the Taliban largely stopped these attacks – but in recent weeks they have blown up American bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
In public statements on Tuesday, Taliban leaders focused not on Mr Biden’s decision to withdraw completely – leaving behind a weak central government that has proven incapable of stopping insurgent advances across the country – but on the fact that the government would miss the May 1st deadline.
“We do not agree to a delay after May 1st,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said on local television. “A delay after May 1st is not acceptable to us.”
The American-led war in Afghanistan has been won and lost multiple times over the past two decades.
The first campaign, in which relatively few special forces worked with local Afghan militias backed by devastating American air strikes, quickly succeeded, forcing the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to flee mostly to Pakistan in late 2001 and early 2002.
Many military analysts praised the mission – its rapid success with the deployment of only a limited number of ground troops – as near a masterpiece of planning and warfare.
The war then evolved from a counter-terrorism mission to a mission devoted to nation-building, democratization, and securing rights for women. However, the inability to create effective local security forces allowed the Taliban to make a comeback, resulting in a significant surge in foreign troops from 2009 onwards, resulting in a second invasion.
Indeed, areas have been evacuated by Taliban fighters. But even this success turned out to be unsustainable. And on another front in the United States’ wars after September 11, the first victory in Afghanistan may have led the Bush administration to believe that its decision to invade Iraq in early 2003 would also bring similar, quick success would.
Biden government officials said the United States would reposition American forces in the region to keep an eye on Afghanistan and the Taliban, and make a commitment on the Taliban that there would be no renewed terrorist threat to Americans or Americans Western interests from Afghanistan.
However, it was unclear what this meant or how far these repositioned forces would go to protect, for example, the fragile Afghan government or the Afghan National Security Forces.
Biden government officials said some troops would remain in the country to protect the US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan – standard practice.
Mr Biden’s top aides have said he is well aware of the risks of a total security collapse in Kabul, the Afghan capital, if all Western troops leave, and he has privately described a fall-of-Saigon scenario as haunting.
However, at private meetings in recent weeks, the president has also questioned whether the small remaining contingent of Americans can achieve anything after 20 years of deploying nearly 800,000 U.S. troops or whether it will ever be possible to follow them Bring home. The cost of the war and reconstruction is estimated at about $ 2 trillion.
Mr. Biden’s own inclination when he was President Barack Obama’s vice president was for minimal American presence, mainly to conduct counter-terrorism missions. But as president, adjutants said, Mr. Biden must weigh up whether following such instincts poses too great a risk of the Taliban overpowering government forces and taking over key cities in Afghanistan.
It is unclear how the government will fulfill its pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from building a larger presence in the country – and possibly using it again as a haven for attacks against the United States – if the Taliban promise to do so separate, do not adhere to relations with the terrorist organization.
“While this is not impossible, I think it will make it much more difficult to focus on our counter-terrorism goals,” said General Joseph L. Votel, a retired chief of the military’s Central and Special Operations Command, in an e- Mail. Effective counter-terrorism “requires good intelligence, good partners, good skills and good access,” he added.
“All of this is being called into question,” said General Votel.
The United States maintains a constellation of air bases in the Persian Gulf region and Jordan, and the Pentagon operates a large regional air force headquarters in Qatar. However, launching long-range bomber or armed drone missions is risky and time-consuming, and not necessarily as effective in fighting enemy targets that suddenly appear or have time to move out of range.
In lieu of declared troops in Afghanistan, the United States will most likely rely on a shady combination of covert special forces, Pentagon contractors, and covert intelligence workers to find and attack the most dangerous threats to Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, current and former American officials said.
Mr Biden’s decision to withdraw was reported earlier Tuesday from the Washington Post.
Military and other officials who favored troops remaining in Afghanistan had used a similarly rated intelligence rating to advocate a slower withdrawal, fearing that a withdrawal of American troops could spark a major civil war and eventual return of terrorist groups.
And while the new withdrawal date gives some air to the beleaguered Afghan security forces, who will most likely be backed by American military support in the summer, the fate of President Ashraf Ghani’s administration remains bleak.
The peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which began in Doha, Qatar, in September, have largely stalled. In order to restart the process, the Biden government has sought a new round of talks in Turkey, which is expected to take place on April 24th. Both sides are expected to agree on a framework for a future government – a permanent ceasefire – but experts believe this is unlikely as the Taliban believe they could militarily defeat the Afghan.
Over the past year, Afghan security forces have lost territory to repeated attacks by the Taliban and have relied on the American air force to repel the insurgents. Given the high level of commitment and the declining credibility of the Afghan government, the militias – once the main powers during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s – have re-armed and re-emerged, even challenging the Afghan security forces in some areas. Many Afghans have seen their emergence as a disturbing sign of what lies ahead for their country.
Afghan officials fear that Mr Biden’s decision to keep American troops in Afghanistan after the May 1 deadline, as set out in last year’s peace agreement, would put pressure on the government in Kabul to release the approximately 7,000 Taliban prisoners that the insurgent group has long asked to be freed.
For now, these remaining prisoners and the lifting of the United Nations sanctions have been some of the last traces of leverage the United States has exerted on the Taliban. However, the Afghan government was firmly against any further release of prisoners.
Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul, Afghanistan. The coverage was contributed by Julian E. Barnes and Michael Crowley from Washington and Najim Rahim and Fahim Abed from Kabul.