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Biden admin ditches May obligation to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

The file photo shows US service members walking off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says the Biden administration will not commit to a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by May after it accused the Taliban of not honoring the commitments they made in their deal with the United States.

The US reached an agreement with the Taliban in February last year on the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on American forces.

Under the deal, the former President Donald Trump’s administration promised to bring the number of US forces in Afghanistan to zero by May 2021.

"The Taliban have not met their commitments. They are not meeting their commitments and as long as they are not meeting their commitments, it is going to be difficult for anybody at that negotiating table to meet their commitments,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said at a news briefing.

"... it's very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement. I don't think it is helpful to be drawn now into specific hypothetical discussions about troop numbers on a specific calendar basis,” he added.

Kirby also said no decision had been made by the Biden administration about future troop levels in Afghanistan.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had hinted at a review of the withdrawal plan.

He told reporters on 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."

Blinken called Afghanistan "a real challenge" during his confirmation hearing last week.

Last Friday, Biden's newly appointed national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, informed his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib about the “United States' intention to review” the February deal.

He said Washington wanted to check that the Taliban side was "living up to its commitments to… reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders."

On Wednesday, a senior Taliban official said the US was provoking the continuation of war in Afghanistan.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, agreed with Taliban’s top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tehran that the United States is not seeking peace and security in Afghanistan, and that Washington’s policy is to prolong militancy and bloodshed among various Afghan factions.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war on terror, overthrowing the Taliban regime.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington has spent more than two trillion dollars waging war on the impoverished country, according to some estimates. Over 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.


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