The New York Times reported on Saturday that US President Joe Biden rejected American generals’ views on Afghanistan in deciding to withdraw US troops by Sept. 11 without conditions.
The report said that Biden used his daily national security briefing on the morning of April 6 to deliver the news that he wanted all American troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
In the Oval Office, US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted to make certain. “I take what you said as a decision, sir,” General Milley said, according to officials with knowledge of the meeting. “Is that correct, Mr. President?” according to the report.
There are about 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.
The current military leadership hoped it could talk Biden into keeping a residual force and setting conditions on any withdrawal. But Biden refused to be persuaded, according to the report.
There would be no conditions put on the withdrawal, Biden told his military advisers, saying, zero meant zero, according to the Times.
Last week, Biden announced the full withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan. He said that it has been 10 years since Osama Bin Laden’s death, and it is time to end America’s war in the country and to bring US troops home.
“We will begin our withdrawal on May 1,” Biden said, adding that it will not be a “hasty rush to the exit,” and if the Taliban attacks, the US will defend itself and partners with “all the tools at our disposal.”
Announcing a full withdrawal from the country, Biden said, “We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago.”
“That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” he added.
“Our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue,” Biden said, adding that the US will continue to aid Afghan security forces, the peace process with Taliban, and to support the rights of women and girls.
Biden said that diplomacy will continue with regional nations, “especially Pakistan.”
“Our diplomacy does not depend on having boots in harm’s way, boots on the ground,” Biden said.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result,” he stated.
“The Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down we’ll defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.”
Washington’s ability to collect intelligence and act on threats will diminish when US troops leave Afghanistan, CIA Director William Burns said last week ahead of an expected announcement of a pullout by President Joe Biden, Reuters reported.
Burns’ testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee underscored a key risk inherent in Biden’s decision to pull remaining US forces out, given the enduring presence of al Qaeda and Islamic State militants in the country.
“When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That’s simply a fact,” he told the committee, adding that the United States would however retain “a suite of capabilities.”
The US will likely increase the presence of its troops in Afghanistan temporarily over the coming weeks and months to fulfill President Joe Biden’s order to safely withdraw all forces from the country by Sept. 11, the Pentagon said Friday.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby did not provide details on this but said military leaders are still working out the details are still being worked out.
Kirby made a common comparison to 2011 when the United States withdrew troops from Iraq and said this drawdown will be “scoped and tailored to the situation.”
US Senator Lindsey Graham has said the decision will favor al-Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan.
“The government will deteriorate rapidly. People will go back to their corners. The Taliban will gain strength in the south and the central government in Kabul will lose its ability to effectively manage the country,” Graham said.
“It’s tenuous already that the Haqqani network, a terrorist organization named by our State Department to be a terrorist organization, will reign in the east. The northern alliance who were the mortal enemy to the Taliban will reconstitute and form militias in the north. In the west Herat which on the border of Iran and a major city in Afghanistan and then the Iranians will have a major influence,” he said.