President Biden is expected to announce plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Post reports.
Why it matters: The decision, expected to be publicly announced Wednesday, means thousands of soldiers will remain in the country beyond the United States' May 1 deadline, which the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year.
- The Taliban has vowed to resume attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel if foreign troops haven't exited by May 1, though it's unclear whether the militant will follow through on its threat.
Our thought bubble, via Axios' Dave Lawler: Biden has always appeared unlikely to meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline, in part because of the logistics involved but mainly because of the risks associated with a precipitous exit without a peace deal in place.
- In setting another specific deadline, Biden will be making clear to all parties involved that the U.S. is serious about exiting the conflict and leaving the window open for progress in the intra-Afghan peace talks.
- But many of the same factors that have kept the U.S. in Afghanistan for two decades — including the risk of state collapse and the fear of terror groups gaining a foothold — will likely still be in place by September.
The state of play: Officially, 2,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan, but the number isn't fixed. The Post estimates that the current total is around 3,500.
- Up to 7,000 additional foreign forces — predominantly NATO troops — remain in the country as well.
- U.S.-facilitated peace talks have not had much success. The Taliban remains robust despite the U.S. attempts to defeat the militants over the course of 20 years.
- The war has also cost trillions of dollars and led to the deaths of over 2,000 U.S. service members and at least 100,000 Afghan civilians, the Post reports.
The big picture: The 9/11 attacks led the U.S. into its longest war, but Biden's decision reflects the United States' growing shift away from the Middle East as it focuses on new priorities like China.