Biden says he 'can't picture' keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond this year

Jenna McLaughlin
·National Security and Investigations Reporter
·2-min read

WASHINGTON — President Biden told journalists Thursday during his first official press conference that he doesn’t expect to see U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2022, appearing to commit to removing U.S. forces by the end of the year.

Biden promised on the campaign trail to put an end to the “forever wars,” referring to U.S. military engagement particularly in the Middle East and Africa since the 9/11 attacks, a commitment that U.S. advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have pushed him to uphold.

Asked if U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan next year, he replied: “I can’t picture that being the case.”

However, Biden is facing an impending deadline to remove troops set by President Donald Trump, whose administration signed a peace deal in February 2020 with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1 of this year.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
President Biden during his news conference on Thursday. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline just in terms of tactical reasons,” Biden said, a comment he’s made multiple times previously.

The administration is reportedly considering an extension of the deadline, as well as ways to continue to negotiate a broader peace deal. Senior U.S. officials continue to say the Taliban has not lived up to its commitments to refrain from attacks included in the Trump-era peace agreement.

Biden noted that he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are discussing how to handle Afghanistan with allies, particularly those in NATO, whose members also have troops on the ground there. Blinken is meeting with NATO allies this week in Brussels.

However, despite his hesitancy to commit to a firm deadline to withdraw troops, Biden stressed that “it is not my intention to stay there a long time.”

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” he said.

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