The Pentagon said Thursday that the Biden administration will not commit to a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by May because the Taliban have not honored previous commitments.
The agreement, negotiated under the Trump administration and signed in February 2020, calls for a complete U.S. troop withdrawal by May 2021 in return for the insurgents fulfilling security guarantees. U.S. officials and diplomats have said that ties between the Taliban, especially its Haqqani Network branch, and al Qaeda remain close. The United States went down to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan earlier this month under the then-outgoing Trump administration, the lowest level of American forces there since 2001.
The US force level in Afghanistan went down to 2,500 troops just days before President Donald Trump left office. “The Taliban have not met their commitments,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said at a news briefing. “Without them meeting their commitments to renounce terrorism and to stop the violent attacks on the Afghan national security forces, and by dint of that the Afghan people, it’s very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement.” No decision had been made by President Joe Biden’s administration about future troop levels in Afghanistan. Diplomats have raised concerns that rising violence, particularly by the Taliban, is undermining trust needed for successful peace talks. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart last week that the United States would review the peace agreement reached with the Taliban [Yahoo News].
Kirby told reporters the US remains committed to working toward that negotiated settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan governments. His comments echoed Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier Thursday that there was “robust diplomatic support for the peace process focused on helping the parties to the conflict achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire that benefits all Afghans.” The two sides agreed to the rules and procedures for the talks in December and reconvened after a break in early January.
Kirby’s assessment of the Taliban’s noncompliance went further than Blinken, who told Ghani that the US was reviewing its deal with the Taliban “and whether the Taliban are living up to their commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders,” according to a State Department readout. Blinken told reporters Wednesday that he was working to understand “exactly what is in the agreements that were reached between the United States and the Taliban to make sure that we fully understand the commitments that the Taliban has made as well as any commitments that we’ve made” [MSN].
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: US ARMY