Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the Biden administration plans to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1st deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal that was signed last year.
“It’s a general feeling that May 1 is too soon, just logistically,” Smith said at a panel on Wednesday, according to Responsible Statecraft. Smith cited conversations he had with administration officials. “You cannot pull out ten thousand plus troops in any sort of reasonable way in just six weeks,” he said.
Smith said the Biden administration wants to “negotiate past May 1” with the Taliban. “Job one is to try to get back in to talk to the Taliban about at least giving us more time,” he said. Smith said the argument for staying is “purely logistical.”
While Smith claims May 1st is “too soon,” the Pentagon said on Tuesday that they are ready to meet the deadline if President Biden orders the withdrawal.
When asked by reporters on Tuesday if it is “logistically” possible to meet the May 1st deadline, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is confident that General Scott Miller, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, could get it done.
“I would point you back to what Secretary Austin said when we were in Kabul, which is that — that he’s confident that Generals McKenzie and General Miller, if a decision is made, to completely withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, that they will get it done in a safe, orderly, and effective way,” Kirby said.
February 8th marked the first full year since the war started in 2001 that no US troops died in combat in Afghanistan. The Taliban are expected to start targeting US soldiers again if President Biden chooses to stay beyond May 1st.