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Biden says he ‘can’t picture’ US troops still being in Afghanistan next year

  • Biden said it will be tough to meet a May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.
  • “We will leave. The question is when we leave,” Biden said.
  • But Biden also said he expects US troops to be out of the country by next year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden during his first news conference as commander-in-chief on Thursday said it will be tough to meet a May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline just in terms of tactical reasons,” Biden said. “We will leave. The question is when we leave.”

The May 1 deadline was set under an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban that did not involve the Afghan government. The Biden administration, wary of the Taliban fully taking over in the event of a US withdrawal, wants to work toward a political settlement involving a transitional government. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opposes the proposal, per Reuters.

In short, the peace process remains stalled and what happens next is unclear. Meanwhile, violent attacks continue in Afghanistan, signaling that the Taliban is not living up to the terms of the agreement for a US withdrawal. 

“It is not my intention to stay there for a long time. But the question is, how, in what circumstances, do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave under a deal that looks like it’s not being able to be worked out to begin with,” Biden said. “How has that done, but we’re not staying a long time.”

When asked if he expected US troops to remain in Afghanistan into 2022, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.” This signals that Biden is relatively confident the longest war in US history will come to a conclusion before the end of the year.

There are roughly 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan. 

The war in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001, is nearly 20 years old. When it began, Biden was still a senator and he voted in favor of the law that paved the way for the invasion. 

Multiple presidents have tried and failed to fully wrap up the conflict in Afghanistan, a country that has often been called the “graveyard of empires.”

As a presidential candidate, Biden pledged to end “forever wars” like Afghanistan that came about as part of the global war on terror. In early March, the White House said Biden intended to work with lawmakers to repeal laws passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks that opened the door for such conflicts.  



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