WASHINGTON, DC - All U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by September 11 - the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a senior administration official announced on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden "made the determination and is announcing tomorrow that the best path forward to advance American interests is to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years so that we can address the global threat picture as it exists today, not as it was two decades ago," said the official.
The government of Turkey announced on Tuesday it will host a 10-day peace conference between Afghanistan's warring sides from April 24. That surprise announcement came after a Taliban spokesman the previous day said his group would not attend a peace conference that had been tentatively planned to take place in Turkey later this week.
"The conference will focus on helping the negotiating parties reach a set of shared, foundational principles that reflect an agreed vision for a future Afghanistan, a roadmap to a future political settlement and an end to the conflict," according to the Turkish foreign ministry.
The decision, however, keeps 3,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline that had been agreed to in a deal Washington negotiated last year with the Taliban.
"We've long known that military force would not solve Afghanistan internal political challenges would not end Afghanistan internal conflict. And, so, we are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting diplomatically the ongoing peace process," said the senior U.S. official.
News of the troop withdrawal decision by Biden comes the same day as a pessimistic U.S. intelligence report predicted a peace deal is unlikely in the next year and the Taliban - an enemy of the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan - will make battlefield gains.
"The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support," according to the unclassified version of the report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"The real question now is whether after withdrawing its troops, the U.S. will continue to help the Kabul government and the Afghan people keep the Taliban at bay," Husain Haqqani, former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, told VOA.
"The Taliban have shown no interest in peace and the Doha process only reinforced their belief that U.S. eagerness to leave Afghanistan outweighed its concerns about that country's future," noted Haqqani, the South & Central Asia director at the Hudson Institute.