| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Biden to speak Thursday about Afghanistan amid swift U.S. pullout

President Joe Biden will speak for the first time on the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan on Thursday, stoking concerns about a civil war and prompting Republican criticism.

Biden will update the American people on the situation, according to a White House official, but no big policy announcements are expected.

Critics have pressed the Democratic president, who is scheduled to address at 1:45 p.m. (1745 GMT), to provide a more detailed explanation for his decision to withdraw.

Last weekend, the United States abandoned Bagram Air Base, the country’s long-time staging ground for US military operations, thereby concluding America’s longest war. According to the Pentagon, the evacuation of US forces is 90% complete.

In a deal reached last year under Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, the US decided to withdraw. Military chiefs who wanted to preserve a greater presence in Afghanistan to aid Afghan security forces and prevent the country from becoming a staging ground for extremist groups were overruled by Biden.

The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, warned last week that the country may be headed toward a civil war.

The U.S. intelligence community believes the Afghan military is weak and that the Kabul government’s prospects for survival in the short term are not good, U.S. government sources familiar with official assessments said.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden would meet his national security team on Thursday “to receive a periodic update on the progress of our military drawdown from Afghanistan.”

“Early tomorrow afternoon, the president will make comments on our continued drawdown efforts and ongoing security and humanitarian assistance to the ANDSF and the Afghan people.”

ANDSF is the acronym for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Some Republicans are criticizing Biden for the pullout, although Trump had also sought to end American involvement in the war.

Biden met Afghan leaders on June 25 and said U.S. support for Afghanistan would be sustained despite the pullout.

“Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want,” Biden said at the time.

The United States plans to leave 650 troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the U.S. Embassy.

  • Reuters