Cross-partisan groups urge Biden to stick with May 1 Afghanistan withdrawal

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A coalition of advocacy groups for veterans and military families from across the political spectrum is calling on President Biden to adhere to a May 1 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

In a letter to Biden on Tuesday, the nine organizations argued the May 1 deadline “presents the best opportunity any president over the past twenty years has faced to end America’s longest ever war.”

“On behalf of our membership and veterans across the country who have answered the call to serve our country, we urge you to honor the sacrifices our troops and their families are willing to make on America’s behalf by not asking our women and men in uniform to remain entangled in a conflict with no clear military mission or path to victory,” the groups wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill. “Our members are proud of their service, but they know it is long past time for America to come home from Afghanistan.”

The letter was signed by groups ranging from the conservative Concerned Veterans for America to the liberal Common Defense. Other signatories include the Secure Families Initiative, Continue to Serve, the Modern Military Association of America, Veterans for American Ideals, Bring Our Troops Home, the Association of the United States Navy and High Ground Veterans Advocacy.

May 1 is the deadline for all U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan set in the agreement with the Taliban signed by the Trump administration last year. Officially, about 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.

Under the deal, the U.S. withdrawal is supposed to be contingent on the Taliban fulfilling commitments including breaking from al Qaeda and reducing violence in Afghanistan — benchmarks the U.S. military has said the insurgents have yet to meet.

Biden and his administration have been reviewing the agreement and have not said whether he will stick to the deadline. But Biden has suggested he is leaning toward keeping troops in Afghanistan at least a few months past May.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said at a news conference late last month. “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

Still, asked if U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan next year, Biden said he “can’t picture that being the case.”

On Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby reiterated that May 1 is “logistically just tough to make,” but stressed that Biden has yet to make a decision.

Military experts say a safe and orderly withdrawal with less than a month to go until the deadline would be very difficult given the logistics of moving out thousands of troops and their equipment.

As it deliberates on withdrawing, the Biden administration has been working to jump-start stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including backing a peace conference to be hosted in Turkey this month.

The Taliban has largely refrained from attacks on U.S. forces since the withdrawal deal was signed, but has threatened to resume those attacks if U.S. troops stay past May.

In their letter to Biden, the veterans and military groups argued that “delaying the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will keep our troops in harm’s way and provoke needless further bloodshed, for an unclear mission that is not necessary to keep America and Americans safe.”

The organizations also argued any remaining counter-terrorism objectives “can be met without ongoing military presence in Afghanistan.”

They also cited January polling commissioned by Concerned Veterans for America that found 67 percent support among veterans for withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“Withdrawing from Afghanistan is what the overwhelming majority of the American people have wanted for years,” they wrote. “As our Commander-in-Chief, you can bring the war in Afghanistan to a close, or prolong the unnecessary loss, sacrifice and diversion it causes from more important strategic challenges.”

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