“After a rigorous policy review, President [Joe] Biden has decided to draw down the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan and finally end the U.S. war there after 20 years,” a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday during a background conference call.
“We will begin an orderly drawdown of the remaining forces before May 1st and plan to have all U.S. troops out of the country before the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” the official said, adding:
The President is deeply grateful for the honor, courage, and determination of the U.S. men and women who have served in Afghanistan for almost two decades, as well as the sacrifices made not just by those troops, but also by their families.
We went to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked us on September 11th and to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack the United States. We believe we achieved that objective some years ago. We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban.
The President made the determination and is announcing tomorrow that the best path forward to advance American interests is to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years so that we can address the global threat picture as it exists today, not as it was two decades ago.
We’ve long known that military force would not solve Afghanistan’s internal political challenges, would not end Afghanistan’s internal conflict. And so we are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting, diplomatically, the ongoing peace process.
The decision is a somewhat surprising continuation of former President Donald Trump’s plans to bring all U.S. forces home from Afghanistan. His administration negotiated a peace plan with the Taliban that would bring troops home by May 1.
However, the Biden administration had in recent weeks signaled that it would not meet the May 1 deadline, but that a drawdown would happen before next year.
The senior administration official said the U.S. would remain “deeply engaged” with the government of Afghanistan and committed to the Afghan people, and would use “our full toolkit to ensure the future that the Afghan people are seeking has the best chance of coming about.”
In addition, allied troops from NATO countries and partners that were part of the U.S.-led war effort are also withdrawing, the official said.
The official said the administration would not take its eye off the terrorist threat or signs of al Qaeda’s resurgence, and noted terrorist threats emanate from a number of countries, including from Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and other parts of Africa — not just Afghanistan.
In another continuation of the Trump foreign policy, the official said the U.S. needed to focus on competition with China.
The official said the only U.S. military presence in the country will be enough to support the U.S.’s diplomatic presence. That exact number is still being worked out, the official said.