Thousands of American troops still in Afghanistan will remain in the Middle Eastern nation about five months past the May 1 exit deadline negotiated with the Taliban by the Trump administration.
A Biden administration senior official revealed on Wednesday morning (Australian time) that all military forces will pull out of Afghanistan before this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The plan, which President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Thursday, would mark a symbolic end to the longest war in American history.
Senior military commanders have warned that prematurely withdrawing troops from Afghanistan could result in the collapse of its government.
But Mr Biden has concluded there is no military solution to resolve the security and political problems which have long plagued Afghanistan.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which is then the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the senior official for the Biden administration said.
“He has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown, will remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11.”
There are still about 3500 US troops in Afghanistan. That’s about 1000 more than the US government had disclosed to the public, according to revelations by US, European and Afghan officials featured in a report by the New York Times in March.
Former US president Donald Trump struck a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 under which all US troops would leave by May 2021.
In return, the Taliban promised not to back al-Qaeda and other extremists.
The Biden official said American forces would start leaving the country in May.
The US will then shift to putting its “full weight” behind diplomatic efforts to reach a peace deal between Taliban representatives and members of Afghanistan’s government, the official said.
“But what we will not do is use our troops as bargaining chips in that process,” they said.
US soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, with the objective to deliver justice for the September 11 attacks and disrupt terrorists.
The official said this had been achieved “some years ago”.
“This is not 2001. It’s 2021. In 2021, the terrorist threat we face, it emanates from a number of countries, indeed a number of continents,” they said.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, more than 2200 US troops have died and more than 20,000 have been injured.
In March, Mr Biden said “it is not my intention to stay there for a long time”, saying he “can’t picture” US troops still being in Afghanistan in 2022.