President Joe Biden is considering keeping US troops in Afghanistan until November, rather than withdrawing them by a May 1 deadline outlined in the Doha agreement, NBC News reports, quoting two people familiar with the discussions.
In recent discussions with members of his national security team, Biden has pushed back against the Defense Department’s efforts to keep US troops in Afghanistan beyond May 1, one of the people said, as quoted by NBC News. But he has been persuaded to consider a six-month extension.
“Biden wants out,” one of the people familiar with the discussions said, as quoted by NBC News. This person said Pentagon leaders have been making the case that the Taliban isn’t living up to its end of the agreement, describing the argument as “Look, you own this now, Mr. President, and we can’t guarantee you what will happen if we just precipitously pull everyone out.”
The military has presented several options, including pulling troops out by or close to May 1, keeping troops in the country indefinitely or keeping troops in Afghanistan for a defined period to be determined by Biden, which could include a six-month extension, said a second person familiar with the matter, as quoted by NBC News.
“The decision is with the president,” the person said.
According to NBC News, the people familiar with the administration’s deliberations said no decision has been made.
In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday, Biden said he was considering when US troops would leave Afghanistan and acknowledged that a full withdrawal by May 1 "is tough."
“I'm in the process of making that decision now as to when they'll leave,” Biden said.
In response to the report, a Taliban spokesman told TOLOnews that the continuation of the US forces' presence in Afghanistan is against the Doha agreement and that violation of the deal will have "unpleasant" consequences.
This comes as representatives of Russia, China, the US and Pakistan in a joint statement said they would not support the return of the Islamic emirate system in Afghanistan.
The statement also recognized the will of the Afghan people for peace, called for a reduction in violence from all sides and for the Taliban to not launch a Spring offensive, and reiterated calls for a negotiated settlement for the conflict.
“As stated in the UNSC resolution 2513 (2020), we do not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate and we call on the government of the Islamic and the High Council for National Reconciliation to engage openly with their Taliban counterparts regarding a negotiated settlement,” the statement said.
The joint statement also called on participants in the intra-Afghan negotiations to engage immediately in discussions on fundamental issues to resolve the conflict.