Pentagon Says Date for Afghan Pullout Uncertain, Is Biden Rethinking Peace?

Pentagon accuses Taliban of failing to meet commitments

Questions about how US foreign policy is going to shake out between President Trump and President Biden have been the subject of a lot of speculation, and Afghanistan looks to be the first place this change will be addressed.

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that the pullout date from Afghanistan is now uncertain, and would be entirely conditional on the Taliban meeting a series of commitments. Press Secretary John Kirby insists the Taliban failed to meet a number of commitments.

They didn’t address specific grievances, but from the February 29 deal, it would be fair for either the US or Taliban to say that some of the terms were not met as expected. In general, the US and Taliban have avoided major fighting with one another, and the US pullout is at least on schedule so far.

President Trump was long ahead of pace on the pullout from Afghanistan, but it may have been a mistake for him not to wrap things up before the inauguration, particularly when Biden’s intentions were so unclear.

As far as Biden’s position goes, it was so unclear that the Taliban started holding up the intra-Afghan talks specifically to see if there was still a peace to be negotiated. They are no doubt still wondering.

Biden is the final decision-maker, but the military is emphasizing that he’s “reviewing” the process, and if he’s getting military feedback that could be a bad sign. In 2017 the military talked Trump out of ending the war, and seems every bit as pessimistic about the process now. If Biden went in waiting for what the military brass says, it could very well be another reversal back into Afghanistan.

This far into the pullout, it seems like it would take a lot less effort to complete Trump’s deal than return to a state of war that the US clearly isn’t winning, and 20 years later is finally on the verge of climbing out of.

It isn’t, after all, as if the US is claiming victory in Afghanistan’s impossibly long war, or has plans for such a victory. A negotiated settlement was the best there was to be had, and dragging it on longer probably is just going to further delay the deal that was the best they could ever get.

In selling this as the Taliban not living up to the deal, it would raise questions about the many US airstrikes on Taliban targets since then, also clearly in violation of the deal. It may have been an imperfect rollout, but it was the best anyone could hope for at this point.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.