Biden to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

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The Biden administration has decided that all USA forces will leave Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack that started America's longest war, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

At the same time, a review of USA choices determined that now was the time to close the book on the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan to focus on more acute threats.

The official said a small number would remain beyond that date, but in the capacity of protecting the U.S. embassy.

American troops have been there in some capacity since late 2001, when the US invaded after accusing the Taliban of providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Biden is expected to announce the decision Tuesday, according to CNN.

Tellingly, he added: "And if we leave, we're going to do so in a safe and orderly way".

Afghan officials will see this announcement as a major boost to the Taliban, despite the insurgents' insistence on adherence to the 1 May deadline. Instead, that has been explicitly ruled out.

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"After a rigorous policy review, President Biden has chose to drawdown the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan and finally end the USA war there after 20 years". A major conference in Istanbul, Turkey, later this month could see progress. But many observers are sceptical and fear the Taliban will be tempted to wait out the withdrawal before pushing for outright victory or at least dominance.

Peace talks that began a year ago between the Taliban and the Afghan government had been seen as the best hope, but they have produced little so far. But the threat of an even more fragmented and bloody conflict looms large.

But withdrawals have been complicated over concerns that the Taliban could retake control of the country, as the Afghan government remains in need of foreign support to operate.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to brief North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on the decision in the Belgian capital, Brussels, on Wednesday. There were more than 100,000 at the war's peak in 2011.

In a February 2020 agreement with the administration of then president Donald Trump, the Taliban agreed to halt attacks and hold peace talks with the Afghan government, in exchange for a U.S. commitment to a complete withdrawal by May 2021.

Commanders have argued that the Taliban have failed to meet the conditions of the peace agreement by continuing attacks on the Afghans and failing to totally cut ties with al Qaida and other extremist groups. The Netherlands and other member states are also contributing troops to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation missions in Afghanistan.

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