Biden ‘can’t picture’ having US troops in Afghanistan next year


President Biden on Thursday was unable to offer a firm timeline for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan but said he “can’t picture” American forces still being there next year.

“It is not my intention to stay there for a long time. But the question is how and under what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave under a deal that looks like it’s not able to be worked out to begin with, how is that done?” Biden said. “But we are not staying a long time.”

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” Biden added.

Asked if it’s possible the U.S. could have troops there next year, Biden said he “can’t picture that being the case.”

Officially, the United States has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, a number reached in the waning days of former President Trump’s tenure. The Trump administration negotiated an agreement with the Taliban calling for all remaining U.S. troops  to leave by May if the Taliban upholds certain commitments such as denying safe haven to al Qaeda.

But Biden has acknowledged that it will be difficult to maintain that deadline if the U.S. is to withdraw its forces in a “safe and orderly way.” Discussions are ongoing with NATO allies, Biden said, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been engaged on the issue.

Experts have warned that a full U.S. withdrawal without a peace agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government could lead to a torrent of violence in Afghanistan, including the potential collapse of the government.

In leaked documents published earlier this month by Afghan news outlet TOLOnews, Blinken proposed a temporary power-sharing agreement between government officials and the Taliban, describing it as a “transitional peace government” that would exist until a new constitution is written and new elections are held.

Blinken separately outlined a series of high-level diplomatic meetings the Biden administration is proposing, including talks hosted in Turkey next month.

Tags Afghanistan conflict Antony Blinken Donald Trump Joe Biden

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