US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday said that an end to the US military involvement in Afghanistan hinges on a reduction in Taliban attacks.
“The violence must decrease now,” he told reporters in his first press conference as Pentagon chief.
Austin said there would be no “hasty” withdrawal.
“We want to do this methodically and deliberately,” he said as quoted by The Hill.
Under the Doha agreement, the Taliban is expected to deny safe haven to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, in addition to engaging in talks and reducing violence.
Austin said that he is “mindful” of the looming May deadline but indicated that it would not be reached as long as the Taliban are not meeting commitments.
“Clearly the violence is too high right now and more progress needs to be made in the Afghan-led negotiations. I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace,” he said.
Austin stressed that the United States will consult with allies and partners in the country and “there will be no surprises” as to Washington’s decision.
He noted that he expressed the same sentiment to NATO allies at the two-day virtual NATO defense ministers meeting earlier this week.
“I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan that puts their forces or the Alliances' reputation at risk,” he said.
This comes a day after NATO Defense Ministers concluded a two-day meeting in Brussels with no final decision taken about troops pullout from Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at end of the two NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday said that the military alliance will only leave Afghanistan when security conditions on the ground allow it.
Stoltenberg said that at this stage, the alliance has not made a final decision about a troop presence in Afghanistan.
US President Joe Biden while addressing the Munich Security Conference on Friday said that the United States will work together with its allies in Europe and that his administration is fully committed to working with NATO allies on the way forward in Afghanistan.