President Joe Biden cautioned it will be “tough” to the meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan, telling ABC News he’s “in the process of making that decision now.”
“The fact is, that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that … the former President worked out,” Biden said. “So we’re in consultation with our allies, as well as the government, and that decision, it’s in process now.”
Under the deal announced in February 2020, the U.S. would draw down to 2,500 forces by January 2021 and completely withdraw by May 1. The Pentagon has said it is at the 2,500 level, though The New York Times reported there are about 1,000 more forces in the country that are being kept “off the books,” by assigning them to other agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency.
Biden told the television show that a full withdrawal could still happen, and it would not “take a lot longer,” though the May 1 deadline would be “tough.” He said the lack of an orderly transition from former President Donald J. Trump “has cost me time.”
The Pentagon has repeatedly said the level of violence is too high in the country, and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has reported that enemy-initiated attacks continue to rise.
Within the past two days, U.S. forces in Afghanistan conducted multiple airstrikes targeting Taliban fighters that were “actively attacking [and] maneuvering” on Afghan forces in Kandahar, said U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett, who noted that Taliban claims that they were not actively attacking are false. The U.S. continues to defend Afghan forces in accordance with the agreement, he added.