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World Biden Ordered Afghanistan Withdrawal Despite Objections From Top Advisers, Congress

01:40  14 april  2021
01:40  14 april  2021 Source:   usnews.com

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President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021 came over the objection of some of his closest advisers, U.S. News has learned, and in the face of vociferous concern from Capitol Hill.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: U.S. President Joe Biden listens to George Kerr, who is a U.S. Navy veteran who lost his home to a fire two years ago and is renting a room, during a roundtable meeting with Americans who will benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic relief checks that are a part of the American Rescue Plan on March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. Other participants are Alma Williams (50) from Greenbelt, Maryland, and Lyda Vanegas (55). The American Rescue Plan is currently being debated in the Senate after being passed in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) © (Samuel Corum/Getty Images) WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: U.S. President Joe Biden listens to George Kerr, who is a U.S. Navy veteran who lost his home to a fire two years ago and is renting a room, during a roundtable meeting with Americans who will benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic relief checks that are a part of the American Rescue Plan on March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. Other participants are Alma Williams (50) from Greenbelt, Maryland, and Lyda Vanegas (55). The American Rescue Plan is currently being debated in the Senate after being passed in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Still, the former vice president who has repeatedly pledged to end "forever wars" considers a swift withdrawal to be the least bad of a series of terrible options.

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Multiple sources confirm that Biden faced pressure from leaders within the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies who opposed a withdrawal before the end of the year. They fear the U.S.-backed local forces will be unable to endure Taliban violence, particularly without the unique capabilities the U.S. provides including air strikes, medical support and intelligence. And without the relative stability that America and its NATO allies can guarantee, they believe the Taliban will inevitably regain control of wider swathes of the country and eliminate the civil reforms efforts the U.S. tried to help instill there, including greater rights for women.

One source familiar with discussions within the National Security Council said Biden's decision ultimately came down to a disagreement between Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser who endorsed the Pentagon and intelligence agencies' viewpoint, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who supported Biden's belief that, facing no good options, the U.S. should pursue the swiftest approach.

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"For Biden, basically, withdrawing now is going to be the same as withdrawing later," the source says.

Regardless of its outcome, the decision will serve as a cornerstone of Biden's foreign policy, following through on his stated support for a U.S. withdrawal while serving as vice president, and pledging to do so as a presidential candidate last year.

"What seems to have happened is that he's been getting a lot of different inputs since taking office, and a lot of these practitioners on the ground, with a knowledge of what potentially could happen, have basically shown the basic scenarios, the consequences of leaving," the source says. "The ability to withdraw was not as easy as he envisaged."

Multiple sources dispute speculation that Biden's decision – which he will reportedly announce publicly on Wednesday – serves some ulterior and rhetorical purpose, such as a diplomatic feint to break the negotiation deadlock between Kabul and the Taliban. The timing, and the time frame it allows, amounts to the first steps in a genuine withdrawal of U.S. forces from the two-decade war zone.

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The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on-record.

Members of Biden's Cabinet have been appealing to the president in recent months to grant the U.S.-backed mission there just a little more time to achieve some form of peaceful settlement with the Taliban and allow for an orderly American withdrawal. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly delivered an "emotional" argument during one meeting in March to consider leaving U.S. troops there beyond the May 1 deadline, one of the terms of a partially secret deal then-President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban.

However, most agree that the conditions that would preface a U.S. peace deal have not materialized, certainly not as a result of that deal signed in Doha in February 2020. Instead the Taliban has stepped up violence against U.S. forces there. It reportedly maintains ties with al-Qaida and other extremist networks despite strict prohibitions on those alliances, and, analysts say, through its de facto support from Pakistan it has positioned itself to continue grabbing territory throughout the war-torn country.

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On Capitol Hill, news of the troop withdrawal broke down along familiar fault lines, sparking deep frustration from GOP defense hawks.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina condemned the decision as "dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous," while Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma called Biden's decision "outrageous."

Prior presidents have assured congressional overseers that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would be based on positive conditions on the ground. Inhofe on Tuesday echoed similar sentiments from other Republicans who believe troop drawdown should indeed be conditions-based.

"The announcement, withdrawing all troops out of Afghanistan by September 11th is a little concerning to me," GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa told reporters on the Hill. "It should be a conditions-based withdrawal, and not just because it's the 20th anniversary of 9/11."

Yet Biden, now, believes such an outcome is not realistic.

"This is not conditions-based," a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever."

Still, Biden's decision won some praise from Republicans who have been vocal about getting out of "forever wars" like GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

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Some Democrats, meanwhile, acknowledged the difficult decision facing Biden and the inevitable vacuum that troop drawdown creates.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed of Rhode Island told Punchbowl News that he heard from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday about the withdrawal.

"[Biden] was confronted with a very serious situation. And I think he's spent a great deal of time. But again, the point is that this should be seen as transitional rather than closure," Reed said.

"I think again we have to focus on what's ahead, which is engagement diplomatically, engagement hopefully with the international community to provide resources to sustain the gains we made there," he added. "And then a very, very determined counterterrorism operation."

Those who have been following U.S. policymaking in Afghanistan say Biden's decision serves as an attempt to find a solution that has eluded his three predecessors.

"Everyone in the Biden administration is in agreement the U.S. cannot stay indefinitely in Afghanistan, there has to be a time for it," says Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the London based Asia-Pacific Foundation, and frequent adviser to NATO and other international security organizations. "The impression I'm getting is Biden has made the call because his view is, if you extend it to the end of the year, it's going to get extended a further 6 months, as Pakistan is not doing enough to reign in the Taliban, and the cycle will keep repeating itself."

Military commanders who have overseen the war across its 20-year span acknowledge the harsh truths driving Biden's decision, but also point to the intractable realities on the ground – and the potential dangers to the American homeland – if the U.S. were indeed to withdraw.

READ: Biden's remarks announcing Afghanistan troop withdrawal

  READ: Biden's remarks announcing Afghanistan troop withdrawal President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally announced his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. © Pool/Getty Images North America/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced his plans to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 in a final step towards ending America's longest war.

"Beyond the significant implications for the Afghan people, it will be harder to protect our interests related to combatting terrorism without something on the ground or arrangements that allow us to respond in a timely and effective manner," former Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who until his retirement in 2019 oversaw all U.S. wars in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, tells U.S. News.

Votel was among the first Americans on the ground in Afghanistan when as a colonel he led a company of Rangers that parachuted onto an airstrip in Kandahar on Oct. 19, 2001, establishing the U.S.-led coalition's first land base in the war.

And he references the pressure the Taliban has exerted on the U.S. amid a surge in violence against the American-backed local forces in recent months and threats to once again target U.S. troops.

"The intransigence of the Taliban is really limiting options for the administration," Votel says.

The senior official told reporters that the administration assesses the terrorist groups in Afghanistan "do not currently possess an external plotting capability that can threaten the homeland," adding, "in coordination with our Afghan partners and with other allies, we will reposition our counterterrorism capabilities, retaining significant assets in the region to counter the potential reemergence of a terrorist threat to the homeland from Afghanistan, and to hold the Taliban to its commitment to ensure al-Qaeda does not once again threaten the United States or our interests or our allies."

Copyright 2021 U.S. News & World Report

Five questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan .
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