Updated Apr 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden says the U.S. will begin Afghanistan troop withdrawal on May 1

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Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden said in a speech Wednesday that it's "time to end America’s longest war," as his administration outlines plans to begin a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan starting May 1, with a full exit deadline of Sept. 11.

Driving the news: "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth," Biden said. "It is time for American troops to come home."

The big picture: Biden seeks to balance two goals that have eluded the past few presidents — bring troops home while ensuring a precipitous withdrawal does not erase the work the U.S. military has done over the last 20 years.

  • Biden's planned withdrawal will ultimately not be conditions-based.
  • "We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result," he said.
Data: CRS, Library of Congress and National Archives. Chart: Axios Visuals. *Note: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn lasted from March 2003 to December 2011. Operations against the Islamic State in Iraq officially resumed in 2014 under Operation Inherent Resolve.
Data: CRSLibrary of Congress and National Archives. Chart: Axios Visuals. *Note: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn lasted from March 2003 to December 2011. Operations against the Islamic State in Iraq officially resumed in 2014 under Operation Inherent Resolve.

What he's saying: "While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue," Biden noted. "We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Along with our partners, we are training and equipping nearly 300,000 personnel."

The state of play: About 3,000 American troops and 7,000 NATO troops remain in Afghanistan.

  • The White House has insisted that the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be defeated through military force and that the al-Qaeda terrorist network no longer has the resources required to execute an attack on the U.S.
  • "Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that will determine our standing and reach today and into the years to come," Biden said.

Zoom out: Chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that NATO agreed to pull its 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan to match Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops, AP writes.

  • Stoltenberg said the full withdrawal would be completed “within a few months."

The bottom line: "We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago," Biden concluded. "That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021."

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