Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expects “some extension” of the US troop presence in Afghanistan past the May 1st deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal.
“In the short run … I would expect some extension,” Reed told reporters. “Even operationally, I think the military would make the case they need more time, even if they’re coming out.”
The US currently has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, although there are also approximately 18,000 Pentagon contractors still in the country. With the deadline approaching, the US and NATO are signaling that they plan to stay, although an official announcement has yet to be made.
A report from Vox this week said President Biden was presented with three options for Afghanistan. He can either leave by May 1st, cut a deal with the Taliban to extend the withdrawal deadline, or scrap the deal altogether and stay indefinitely. The report said Biden is leaning towards the extension, which lines up with Reed’s comments, but it’s not clear if the Taliban would agree to push back the withdrawal deadline.
What is clear is that if the US stays beyond the May 1st deadline without the consent of the Taliban, attacks against US and NATO forces will begin again. Since the US-Taliban deal was signed last February, no US troops have died in combat in Afghanistan.