President Biden formally announced on Wednesday his plan to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan. While the new plan pushes back the May 1st deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal, Biden said the withdrawal process will begin on May 1st, and the goal is to have all troops out by September 11th.
“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth,” Biden said. “I’ve concluded it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.”
Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in Doha last year, no US troops have died in Afghanistan. The Taliban has warned that it will start attacking US and other foreign troops again if they remain in the country beyond May 1st. It’s not clear if Biden’s plan will be acceptable to the Taliban. After the news broke on Tuesday that Biden was pushing back the deadline, the Taliban said it was boycotting peace talks until the US left.
“The Taliban should know that if they attack us as we drawdown, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal,” Biden said in his announcement.
Biden said the US will continue to provide “significant” assistance to the Afghan government after the withdrawal, something he also told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a phone conversation on Wednesday.
As part of his justification for the withdrawal, Biden claimed there were more “terrorist” threats facing the US in other parts of the world, like Somalia and Syria, a sign that the War on Terror will continue. He also cited the need to confront China, which the Pentagon recently identified as the top “threat” to the US. Considering Afghanistan’s location in central Asia and the fact that it shares a small border with China’s Xinjiang province, there will undoubtedly be a continued CIA presence in the country.
The US officially has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, although the number is believed to be closer to 3,500. On top of the US presence, there are 7,000 other coalition troops in the country, mostly NATO forces. Biden said the US’s NATO allies will be leaving too. “The plan has long been in together, out together,” he said.
The US also maintains a heavy presence in Afghanistan in the form of contractors working for the Pentagon. The latest numbers released in January said the Pentagon has over 18,000 contractors in Afghanistan.