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Biden after officially announcing the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

For many Americans, President Biden’s decision to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending a war that has cost $2 trillion and the lives of 2,400 service members, was good news 20 years in the making.

  • For many Afghans, it was “shocking” and “very hard to digest,” Haji Ajmal Rahmani, a prominent member of the Afghan parliament, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Rahmani believes the period leading up to Biden’s announcement represented the best opportunity for peace in his country in decades.

The backdrop: A peace conference was scheduled to take place in Istanbul on April 24 as part of a U.S.-backed push to accelerate intra-Afghan negotiations.

  • Rahmani and other Afghan stakeholders had been receiving signals that any decision by Biden would be conditions-based, as previous withdrawal efforts had been.
  • Then came last week’s news that Biden would withdraw all troops by Sept. 11 regardless of the military and political circumstances, and with it a Taliban boycott of peace talks until "all foreign forces completely withdraw."
  • Rahmani saw that as a major blow to the Afghan government that took the wind out of the sails of the peace process. He says the Taliban is now claiming victory, convinced they will be able to take back vast amounts of territory by force without having to return to the negotiating table.

But despite his initial despair, Rahmani says he respects Biden’s decision and believes the situation can be “managed."

  • The Taliban remains vulnerable to diplomatic pressure points, like terrorist blacklists and the 7,000 prisoners still in the custody of the Afghan government. And robust international funding for the military, especially the Afghan Air Force, could be enough to at least hold the Taliban to a stalemate and force them to return to peace talks, Rahmani says.
  • But without sufficient support, he argues, the preservation of women’s rights, freedom of speech and any semblance of a stable Afghanistan are at serious risk.

Go deeper

Trump calls Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal "wonderful" and "positive"

Donald Trump in 2018. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Former President Trump said President Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan is "a wonderful and positive thing to do," but criticized the timeline and said the U.S. "should get out earlier."

Why it matters: The statement puts Trump once again at odds with top Republicans who have widely condemned the move, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling it a "grave mistake" and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) saying the withdrawal is a "disaster in the making."

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.