The United States should extend the May 1 deadline for withdrawal of all its troops from Afghanistan, and reduce troops depending on progress in peace talks as well as by the Taliban in reducing violence and containing al Qaeda, a US Congressional panel said on Wednesday.
US should not abandon the Afghan peace process, the report said. But conditions for its success will not be met by a May 1 deadline set in a 2020 US-Taliban agreement. Withdrawing all US troops then could lead to civil war, destabilizing the region and reviving the al Qaeda threat.
The United States “should not…simply hand a victory to the Taliban,” said the Afghanistan Study Group report addressed to Congress.
General Joseph Dunford, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff, who co-chaired the group, told reporters the report was shared with aides to President Joe Biden, including Zalmay Khalilzad, the peace negotiator kept on from the Trump administration, who “found it helpful.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration “plans to support” the peace process, and is assessing the Taliban’s commitment to cutting ties to al Qaeda, lowering violence and engaging in peace talks.
Former President Donald Trump ordered a drawdown to 2,500 US soldiers by last month even as violence surged; US officials said the Taliban maintained ties with al Qaeda; and intra-Afghan peace talks stalled.