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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.

Biden threatens new sanctions against Ethiopian officials over Tigray conflict

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order allowing the Treasury and State Departments to impose sanctions against Ethiopian officials "responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict" in the Tigray region.

Driving the news: Hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine conditions in Tigray, but less than 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies has reached the region over the last month "due to the obstruction of aid access" by the Ethiopian government, according to Biden administration officials.

Top general: Calls to China were "perfectly within the duties" of job

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the Associated Press on Friday that calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job.

Why it matters: In his first public comments on the calls that have prompted critics to question whether the general went too far, Milley maintained that such conversations are "routine," per AP.

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