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Photo: Amr Alfiky/New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden is expected to announce plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The decision, expected to be publicly announced Wednesday, means thousands of soldiers will remain in the country beyond the current May 1 deadline, which the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year.

  • The Taliban has vowed to resume attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel if foreign troops haven't exited by May 1, though it's unclear whether the group will follow through on its threat.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Dave Lawler: Biden has always appeared unlikely to meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline, in part because of the logistics involved but mainly because of the risks associated with a precipitous exit without a peace deal in place.

  • In setting another specific deadline, Biden will be making clear to all parties involved that the U.S. is serious about exiting the conflict and leaving the window open for progress in the intra-Afghan peace talks.
  • But many of the same factors that have kept the U.S. in Afghanistan for two decades — including the risk of state collapse and the fear of terror groups gaining a foothold — will likely still be in place by September.

The state of play: Officially, 2,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan, but the number isn't fixed. The Post estimates that the current total is around 3,500.

  • Up to 7,000 additional foreign forces — predominantly NATO troops — remain in the country as well.
  • U.S.-facilitated peace talks have not had much success. The Taliban remains robust despite the U.S. attempts to defeat the militants over the course of 20 years.
  • The war has also cost trillions of dollars and led to the deaths of over 2,000 U.S. service members and at least 100,000 Afghan civilians, the Post reports.

The big picture: The 9/11 attacks led the U.S. into its longest war, but Biden's decision reflects the United States' growing shift away from the Middle East as it focuses on new priorities like China.

Go deeper

Pentagon chief announces U.S. will station 500 additional troops in Germany

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer walks with Austin upon his arrival at the Defense Ministry on April 13. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on a trip to Berlin Tuesday that the U.S. will station an additional 500 troops in Germany as soon as this fall "to strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe."

Why it matters: It's a stark reversal from the policies of former President Trump, who sought to withdraw 12,000 troops from Germany after accusing the U.S. ally of "delinquent" payments to NATO.

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

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