Biden Continues to Slowly Back Away From Afghanistan Peace Deal

Reluctant to state policy, Biden seems to put off peace until next year

With the May 1 pullout date fast approaching, President Biden seems reluctant to state his actual intentions on Afghanistan. On the one hand, he says the May 1 deadline is hard to reach, but that he also “can’t picture” US troops staying beyond next year.

Those two positions combined might put the US pullout date sometime after May 1 but before 2022. If it was that simple, however, one would expect that Biden would say as much, instead of just reiterating what he doesn’t expect to do.

This gives the same impression that Biden has given on Afghanistan since taking office, that he intends to avoid making a decision for as long as possible, and avoid any political fallout with congressional hawks who’d just as soon keep the troops there.

Since making his own peace deal, President Trump had the US ahead of pace on the pullout, but having come short of finishing it by Biden’s inauguration, he left an estimated 2,500 US troops there to be withdrawn.

A small number of troops means it’s a comparatively small expense to the US, and some in Congress, like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) are expressing comfort with just leaving the troop level as it is.

Biden would avoid fights with Congress that way, but moving beyond May will be seen as a challenge to the Taliban. Taliban officials warn that any delay is unacceptable, and that they want the US pulled out on time.

As this is going on, the US proposed a deal between Afghan government and Taliban, including an interim government. The US seems to have made this proposal to tamp down Taliban anger about the pullout delay, and to argue that the peace deal needs time serves as a justification, of sorts, for the US delays.

Yet this is an empty proposal too. With the Ghani government already having ruled out an interim government, they quickly rejected the US plan, leaving that as another open-ended question about how things might shake out.

This all leaves us totally in the dark about US intentions. This could perhaps be likened to Trump’s position in 2017, when he avoided taking a position for months before deciding on a new surge. Biden seems similarly inclined toward anything that keeps the war going, but the appearances are that he’s dragging out any announcements to avoid making it into an issue.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.