US Forces to Leave Afghanistan By Sept. 11
WASHINGTON – U.S. military forces will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Biden administration officials revealed Tuesday.
President Joe Biden is expected to formally announce the plan, which is not conditions-based, unlike previous decisions on troop levels, on April 14.
A senior administration official, who spoke on background with reporters, said sticking with the conditions-based approach is a “recipe” for U.S. forces to stay in the country forever.
Biden’s new deadline is still more than four months after the May 1 deadline for American troops to leave the country that was agreed to under the February 2020 deal with the Taliban.
U.S. officials have said the Taliban’s level of violence remains too high to completely withdraw forces, although the U.S. already has drawn down to about 2,500 in Afghanistan, from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2011.
Extending the deadline will give commanders the “time and space” needed to safely withdraw from the country, the official said.
After Sept. 11, the remaining military force will be focused on protecting the diplomatic presence in the country. The official did not say what size force would be needed for that mission.
However, blowback to word of the plan was immediate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., demanded Biden publicly explain why he’s “abandoning our partners and retreating in the face of the Taliban.”
“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, almost immediately took to Twitter to call it “a reckless and dangerous decision.”
“No one wants a forever war, but I’ve consistently said any withdrawal must be conditions-based,” Inhofe said. “Arbitrary deadlines would likely put our troops in danger, jeopardize all the progress we’ve made, and lead to civil war in Afghanistan — and create a breeding ground for international terrorists.
“I urge President Biden to reconsider this decision to withdraw all forces by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terorrist attacks. This date shows the decision is political and not conditions-based. It sends the wrong messages to our allies and adversaries,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was equally angered.
“If reports are accurate that President Biden is withdrawing all forces from Afghanistan by September of this year, it is a disaster in the making. A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is so irresponsible, it makes the Biden administration policies at the border look sound,” he said.
“A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, cancelled an insurance policy against another 9/11,” Graham continued. “A residual counterterrorism force would be an insurance policy against the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan that could pave the way for another attack against our homeland or our allies.
“The intelligence assessment of a complete withdrawal is very dire. I hope our military advised against this withdrawal because I know what is most likely to happen: a reigniting of the Afghan Civil War and reversing all gains for Afghan women and children. The void created by this fight benefits ISIS and al-Qaida, who still reside in Afghanistan,” he said.
“The American military footprint in Afghanistan today is 2,500 troops. Those brave American men and women are an insurance policy against another 9/11. I think it is insane to withdraw at this time given the conditions that exist on the ground in Afghanistan. I know people are frustrated, but wars don’t end because you’re frustrated. Wars end when the threat is eliminated,” Graham concluded.
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