Biden: Afghanistan Withdrawal Deadline ‘Hard to Meet,’ but Troops Will Leave Soon

President Joe Biden on March 25 reiterated that it will be difficult for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline, but said American troops will come home soon.

“It’s hard to meet the May 1st withdrawal deadline,” Biden said during his first press conference in office. “We are working with our allies. We are not staying a long time. We will leave, the question is when we leave.”

When asked if U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan next year, Biden was definitive, saying, “I can’t picture that being the case.” U.S. forces already have drawn down to 2,500 in the country.

Defense Department officials have repeatedly said Taliban violence is too high, and withdrawing too soon will limit Afghan forces’ ability to defend themselves. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week visited NATO to discuss the way ahead in the country, and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III visited Kabul to meet with senior Afghan officials.

“We’ve been meeting with our allies, those other nations that have troops in Afghanistan as well, and if we leave we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way,” Biden said.

Earlier on March 25, Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the Taliban has “not upheld what they said they would do. It is clear they took a deliberate approach and increased violence since the peace accords were signed.”

While Afghan forces have made progress, U.S. and other international support is still “critical to their success,” Clarke said.