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US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, diplomatic sources say

As the international conference for the intra-Afghan peace process in Istanbul is approaching, US officials disclosed that President Biden is preparing to announce the withdrawal plan on Wednesday.

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US diplomatic sources stated that President Biden would announce the plan for the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan on Wednesday. According to this, the withdrawal would be completed by September 11, which remarks the 20th anniversary of the US intervention in Afghanistan. It is known that there are 2,500 US troops in the country alongside the NATO-led coalition forces.

The deadline for the withdrawal was initially scheduled on May 1, which was agreed between the Taliban and the then-US administration under Donald Trump’s presidency. However, President Biden had previously stated that it is unlikely to complete the withdrawal by May 1 due to a stalemate in peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban group. The Taliban had issued a warning threatening to continue its hostile attacks against foreign troops in the country if the deadline was not met.

According to a senior US official’s statement, Biden will announce his latest decision on Wednesday. The withdrawal is expected to begin before May 1 and could be completed before September 11, the source added. Additionally, it was stated that any further conditions, including security or human rights, would not be the subject of discussion for the pullout.

On the other hand, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with their NATO allies in Brussels ahead of the Biden announcement. After negotiations, the US top diplomat announced that the NATO-led coalition in the country would also leave the country in coordination with the US withdrawal by September 11. It is known that Afghanistan hosts approximately 7,000 non-US troops, comprising of main NATO allies as well as forces from Australia, New Zealand, and Georgia.

Speaking in a televised statement at NATO headquarters, Blinken stated that “We will work closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate, and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan.”

On the other hand, how the US decision will affect the international summit that will be held in Istanbul for the peace talks remains unclear. On April 13, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement, announcing that the conference would be convened between April 24 – May 4. However, the US official highlighted the importance of the peace process, saying, “There is no military solution to the problems plaguing Afghanistan, and we will focus our efforts on supporting the ongoing peace process.”

The Taliban officials have stated that it has not been decided yet whether the group will attend the conference. Previously, it was notified that the group would not attend any negotiations, and that it would make its final decision about Afghanistan until all foreign troops pull out of the country.

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