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Biden Might Keep Troops In Afghanistan After May 1 Deadline

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Topline

President Joe Biden could extend the U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan until November, despite an agreement with the Taliban to pull out troops by early May, multiple news outlets reported Thursday amid worries the country’s security situation remains too fragile.

Key Facts

Biden is considering asking for a six-month extension to the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline, though a decision hasn’t been made yet and the Taliban would likely need to agree to an extension, NBC News and CNN reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

Biden told ABC News this week he might still pull troops out of Afghanistan by May 1, but he called the deadline “tough” and suggested the peace agreement between Trump and the Taliban was “not a very solidly negotiated deal.”

Administration spokespeople have remained mum on future plans: Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby said last week a decision on the May 1 deadline hasn’t been made.

The White House and Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment.

Crucial Quote

“Everybody here is mindful of looming deadlines,” Kirby told reporters last week.

Big Number

2,500. That’s how many U.S. troops the Pentagon says are currently in Afghanistan. The number of personnel stationed in the country has decreased for years from a 2011 peak of nearly 100,000 troops.

Key Background

Last year, former President Donald Trump agreed to withdraw remaining troops from Afghanistan by May 1, part of a deal with the Taliban to wind down hostilities with the United States and end America’s two-decade-long presence in the country. Some observers warn this timeline is premature. Violence in the country remains high, and the Taliban and the Afghan government still haven’t reached a power-sharing agreement yet, meaning an early withdrawal by the United States could leave the Afghan government defenseless. In a February report commissioned by Congress, the Afghanistan Study Group lobbied Biden to seek an extension “in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result,” warning Afghanistan is “highly likely to fall into chaos” if the United States withdraws troops immediately.

Contra

Some skeptics argue the security situation in Afghanistan is unlikely to improve if the United States keeps its relatively small presence there, so the time is right to withdraw. “The American people have wanted us out of Afghanistan probably for the last decade,” progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told USA Today this week.

Tangent

The Taliban has continued to call on the United States to withdraw troops, so it’s unclear whether the group would agree to an extension.

Further Reading

Biden weighs keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until November (NBC News)

Stay or Go? Biden, Long a Critic of Afghan Deployments, Faces a Deadline (New York Times)

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