The US President Joe Biden in his first visit to the Pentagon as commander-in-chief, has promised to work with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and leaders around the world "to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people."
"As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary,” Biden said, adding that “the central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe."
But “force should be a tool of last resort, not the first,” he said.
“The Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world. In fact, the president said, DOD personnel are not just the guarantors of US security, but often diplomats themselves,” he said.
In the meantime, the Washington Times reported that has indicated he could abandon the approaching May 1 exit deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.
The February 2020 deal says that all US troops are supposed to be gone by May 2021.
But, officials in the Biden administration have said any deal should be based on conditions on the ground rather than a date set on a calendar.
No combat death for US troops
The US military has gone a full year without a single combat death in Afghanistan for the first time in two decades of war, Military Times reported.
Army Sgts. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez and Antonio Rodriguez were the last two Americans to die while fighting in the country one year ago, the report said, adding that two others, Army Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin and Army Pfc. Miguel Villalon, were killed in January of last year.
The Taliban has said it may still target US military members if the Doha agreement is violated.
This comes as US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in a telephonic conversation with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib on Jan. 22 said the Biden administration would review the Trump administration's February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, the White House said in a press release.
There are 2,500 troops left in Afghanistan, and the agreement between the Taliban and former US President Trump stipulated that all of them should be removed by May 2021.
Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham in an interview with CBS has said that the American troops will not leave Afghanistan in May, supporting the Biden administration's stance on Afghanistan and its bid to review the US-Taliban agreement.
“I'm very pleased with what the Biden administration is proposing for Afghanistan. We're going to keep troops there on a conditions-based approach,” Graham said.
In response to a question that will the US troops leave Afghanistan post may, Graham said, “I think we're not going to leave in May. We're going to leave when the conditions are right. The the Taliban have been cheating. They haven't been complying. And so I like what Secretary Blinken and the Biden administration is doing.”
“They're reevaluating our presence in Afghanistan to keep the footprint low, but not to walk away and lose all the gains we've achieved,” Graham said. “If we leave too soon without a conditions-based withdrawal, Daesh and al-Qaeda will come roaring back. Women will suffer greatly. So they're in a good spot, I think, on Afghanistan.”
A study group appointed by US Congress calls on the Biden administration to slow the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, remove the May 1 exit deadline and instead reduce the number of troops only as security conditions improve in the country.
The report finds that removing international forces by the May 1 deadline set in the US-Taliban peace agreement could lead to a civil war in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Study Group began its Congressionally mandated work in April 2020, just weeks after the US and the Taliban signed an agreement on February 2020 on the conditions for a US troop withdrawal that would end US’ long military engagement in Afghanistan.
“We have an interest in an Afghanistan that respects basic human rights. We do not, however, believe that securing these interests requires a permanent US military presence in Afghanistan,” the group said in the report.
The report said that: “An immediate diplomatic effort to extend the current May 2021 withdrawal date in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.”
Terror groups in Pakistan
India at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday said that the peace process in Afghanistan by orchestrating violent attacks through terror groups like Al-Qaida, Daesh and terror groups are now relocating in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, across the Durand Line, ANI reported.
"It is essential that we don't lose sight of the ease with which the proscribed Haqqani Network and its supporters, especially the Pakistan authorities, have worked along with prominent terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida, Daesh, Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan in South Asia,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the UN TS Tirumurti.
He said that the UN Secretary General's report on Daesh should also cover activities of the proscribed terrorist entities under Daesh and “Al Qaida Sanctions regime like Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistan based terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and "frontal organizations that raise funds for their activities.”