Joe Biden acknowledged that US objectives in Afghanistan had become “increasingly unclear” over the past decade. He set a deadline for withdrawing all 2,500 US troops remaining in Afghanistan by September 11, exactly 20 years after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States that triggered the war. But by pulling out without a clear victory, the United States opens itself to criticism that a withdrawal represents a de facto admission of failure for American military strategy. Former US ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker has warned the withdrawal of troops risks a “return to Taliban rule”.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Volker said: “He is facing the same domestic pressures to pull US troops that President Trump faced and even President Obama faced before him.
“If you remember President Obama in 2009 articulated the first effort to have a withdrawal deadline.
“The problem with withdrawal deadlines is you’re really putting the cards in the hand of the Taliban to wait it out and then take over the country.
“We do risk a return to Taliban rule, the fatality of that rule, possible partnership with terrorists and other extremists as well.
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“This is going to be a challenge for some time to come.”
The war has cost the lives of 2,448 American service members and consumed an estimated $2 trillion. US troop numbers in Afghanistan peaked at more than 100,000 in 2011.
The Democratic president had faced a May 1 withdrawal deadline, set by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who tried but failed to pull the troops out before leaving office in January.
Instead, Biden said the final withdrawal would start on May 1 and end by September 11.
“The British public and our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of our time in Afghanistan.
“Most importantly we must remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, who will never be forgotten.”
Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood previously said the US’s decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the autumn risks “losing the peace”.
The senior Conservative MP said Washington’s move would make it “very difficult” for British troops to remain in the battle-ravaged country and that the subsequent vacuum could allow extremism to “regroup”.