Biden says he 'can't picture' U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year

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President Joe Biden said Thursday that he “can’t picture” having U.S. troops still in Afghanistan next year, but acknowledged that they may not all be out of the country by the May 1 deadline set by his predecessor.

“I can’t picture that being the case,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question about whether troops will be there a year from now.

The new Biden administration is facing a May 1 deadline to withdraw roughly 3,500 American forces from Afghanistan under a deal with the Taliban they inherited from the Trump administration. But top officials, including Biden himself, have recently signaled that deadline is not feasible — both for logistical reasons, and because the Taliban have not met their commitments under the deal.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out,” Biden said.

Biden and his national security team is reviewing the way ahead for Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week made an unannounced visit to Kabul to meet with commanders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Biden is still waiting for a briefing on Austin’s meeting with Ghani, he said.

As vice president in the Obama administration, Biden was a strong advocate of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and during his presidential campaign he promised to end “forever wars.” However, Biden signaled that the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban is flawed.

While the review is not yet completed, Biden promised that “it is not my intention to stay there for a long time.”

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” Biden said.

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