During his first press conference, President Biden said it would be “hard” to pull troops out of Afghanistan by the May 1st deadline set by the US Taliban peace deal, although he said he “can’t picture” US soldiers still being in the country by next year.
“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said when asked if troops will be out of Afghanistan by May 2nd. “In terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out.”
Biden’s answer reflects comments made by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on Wednesday, who said he believes the administration is planning to stay in Afghanistan past May 1st. Both Smith and Biden said it wouldn’t be possible to pull out troops so “soon,” but the Pentagon said on Tuesday that it could carry out the withdrawal if ordered to do so.
While Biden hinted he would not meet the deadline, he did claim that he wants to get troops out of Afghanistan soon. “It is not my intention to stay there for a long time,” he said. “We will leave. The question is when we leave.” When asked if he believes troops will still be in Afghanistan by next year, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”
On Wednesday, Rep. Smith said the Biden administration is trying to negotiate an extension of the deadline with the Taliban. But it is unlikely that the Taliban would agree to push back the date, and the group has recently warned there would be a “reaction” if Biden chooses to stay past May 1st.
Staying against the will of the Taliban likely means an escalation of the war, and US troops would start being targeted again. Since the US-Taliban deal was signed last February, no US troops have died in combat in Afghanistan.