President Joe Biden will withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan before this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, finally ending America’s longest war despite mounting fears of a Taliban victory, officials said Tuesday.
The drawdown delays only by around five months an agreement with the Taliban by former president Donald Trump to pull troops, amid a growing consensus in Washington that little more can be achieved.
The decision came as Turkey announced an international peace conference on Afghanistan in hopes of reaching an agreement that brings stability to a nation battered by nearly 40 years of war. But the Taliban, newly emboldened, said they would boycott the conference.
Biden, who will make an announcement Wednesday, had earlier mused about keeping a residual force to strike at Al-Qaeda or an emergent Islamic State extremist threat or making withdrawal contingent on progress on the ground or in slow-moving peace talks.
In the end, he decided to do neither and will order a complete withdrawal other than limited US personnel to guard the US installations including the imposing embassy in Kabul, a senior official said.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Under the Trump administration’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban, all US troops would leave by May 2021 in return for the insurgents’ promise not to back Al-Qaeda and other foreign extremists, which was the original reason for the 2001 invasion.