World Biden Ordered Afghanistan Withdrawal Despite Objections From Top Advisers, Congress
Derek Chauvin trial, COVID-19 vaccine side effects, FLOTUS agenda: 5 things to know Wednesday
The Derek Chauvin trial will continue with more expert testimony, a study on COVID-19 vaccine side effects is out and more news to start your Wednesday.Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
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.
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.
How Biden's decision to stay longer in Afghanistan could help Trump
The choice is likely between leaving Afghanistan peacefully in May or again putting American forces under fire — making a withdrawal much harder.This might seem like a short-term extension that simply allows Biden to negotiate better terms that do more to stabilize the U.S.-allied Afghanistan government from the Taliban after an American exit. But staying beyond the May deadline risks escalation on the part of the Taliban that, in turn, could potentially draw the United States into more years of conflict. There is, therefore, no guarantee that the 20th anniversary of the attack on the twin towers will actually be the end of America’s longest war.
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.
As US troops prepare to pull out, a look at the war in Afghanistan by the numbers
Here is a look at the current situation for the approximately 2,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and what has transpired over the last 20 years. MORE: Biden to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 US Troops in Afghanistan Officially the Pentagon says there are about 2,500 American troops serving in Afghanistan as part of an advise-and-assist mission to help Afghan security forces. However, U.S. officials have acknowledged the number is slightly higher as U.S. counterterrorism forces are not counted in the official training mission number.
"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.
US coordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal
BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s top national security aides were consulting with NATO on Wednesday to coordinate the alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan with the planned pullout of American troops by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance’s 30 members on Wednesday to discuss NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan in light of the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal that Biden was to make later in the day.Blinken said that he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the U.S.
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 "" 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.
Afghanistan: Why the US is there, why it's leaving, what will happen when it's gone
President Joe Biden's promise to remove US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 is his effort -- each of the last four presidents has had one -- to end America's longest war.The deadline for Biden's withdrawal is significant -- September 11, 2021, is 20 years after the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania that led the US to target Afghanistan in the first place.
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.
'The progress Afghanistan has made ... will all be for naught,' retired general fears
President Biden has ordered the last 2,500 US troops home by Sept. 11, giving the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda room to grab power, ex-general says.The estimated 2,500 U.S. troops that President Biden has ordered home offered some slim assurance that the Afghan government could withstand the Taliban insurgency that has re-emerged across the country of 37 million.
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
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 .
President Biden's decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September would be a historic achievement closing a 20-year chapter of U.S. history that saw more than 2,300 troops killed and cost upward of $1 trillion. © Getty Images Five questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan But big questions remain about what Afghanistan will look like when U.S. troops are gone, as well as how the United States will ensure its interests in the region are met and continue to support the Afghan government non-militarily. Here are five questions about Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal.