Sources: international contingent may remain in Afghanistan after May deadline
International troops plan to remain in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline stipulated by the U.S. agreement with the Taliban, four senior NATO officials said.
Such a situation could exacerbate tensions with the Taliban demanding a full withdrawal.
“There will be no full withdrawal by the allies by the end of April,” one source told Reuters.
“The conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue. – In addition, with the new U.S. administration coming in, there will be adjustments in policy, there will no longer be the sense of hasty withdrawal that has prevailed, and we will be able to see a much more calculated exit strategy.”
The Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year providing for the withdrawal of foreign troops by May in exchange for the movement fulfilling certain security guarantees.
The Afghan government was not a party to the agreement. Trump hailed it as the end of nearly two decades of war. By this month, he had reduced the number of U.S. troops to 2,500, the lowest number since 2001.
Post-April plans are likely to be a major issue at a key NATO meeting in February, alliance sources said.
“No NATO member wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have made it clear that our presence is contingent on conditions,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
NATO continues to urge all parties to “seize this historic opportunity for peace,” she said.
The administration of Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump on Jan. 20, has begun reviewing the peace agreement made by his predecessor.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Taliban have not met their obligations, but that Washington remains committed to the process and has not yet made a decision on future troop levels.
The State Department spokesman said Biden was determined to “responsibly end ‘perpetual war’ while protecting Americans from terrorist and other threats.”
The Afghan president’s office did not respond to a request for comment.