US, NATO delay decision on troops withdrawal from Afghanistan

US, NATO delay decision on troops withdrawal from Afghanistan

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Biden administration yet to decide whether to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan this year

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that the Biden administration had not yet whether the United States would withdraw its troops by the May 1 deadline.

Defense Secretary Lloyd said that the end to U.S. military involvement in the war-ravaged country depends on the Taliban reducing attacks. “Clearly the violence is too high” right now, he said.

“I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace. The violence must decrease, now,” Austin said, in his first press briefing with reporters as Pentagon chief.

“I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said referring to this week’s virtual NATO meetings.

The statement comes after the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said that the alliance has not yet decided if its 10,000 troops in Afghanistan will leave by May this year. “Violence has to be reduced and the Taliban has to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups that are planning terrorist attacks in our countries,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the conclusion of the virtual NATO defense ministers meeting.

“Our aim is to make sure that we have a lasting political agreement that can make it possible for us to leave in a way that doesn’t undermine our main goal and that is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a safe haven [for terrorists],” the NATO chief said.

There are about 2,500 US troops and 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan now. Last February, the United States brokered a deal with the Taliban that would lead to a permanent cease-fire and withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.

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