Speed Reads

Afghan conflict

The Taliban and Afghan government may both be unhappy with Biden's troop withdrawal plan

On the record, Afghanistan's government appears to have accepted President Biden's decision to withdraw American troops from the country by or before Sept. 11, 2021. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday that he spoke with Biden and "respects" the decision, adding that the government's security forces are "fully capable" of defending the country in a post-U.S. era. But other reports are suggesting the decision stings.

"You cannot achieve a political settlement if you don't have a military presence," an Afghan government security official told The Wall Street Journal, referring to efforts to reach an agreement with the Taliban to end the country's decades-long conflict. "The only leverage the U.S. has over the Taliban is the presence of U.S. forces."

An Afghan official briefed on the specifics of Biden's withdrawal plan told The Washington Post the exit will "embolden" the Taliban. "It gives them a win, and neither the Afghan government or the Americans get anything in return," he said, though he did concede that the new timeline at least provides Kabul some "clarity" and a few extra months to prepare for the U.S. departure.

The Taliban, meanwhile, had expected the U.S. to stick to the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed upon by the Trump administration, and the group has issued a warning to the Biden administration. If "foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those [who] failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted Wednesday, per the Post. On Tuesday, the Taliban said it would not participate in any peace negotiations until U.S. and other foreign forces are gone. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.