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President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Biden says he ‘can’t picture’ US troops being in Afghanistan next year

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: US President Joe Biden said the US would likely fail to meet the 1 May deadline to pull out American troops from Afghanistan, but added that he couldn’t “picture” American military presence in the country next year.

“We are not staying for a long time. We will leave”, said Biden, when asked by a reporter if the US would be able to meet its 1 May deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

It’s been clear to any knowledgeable observer that the logistics of withdrawing 2,500-plus U.S. troops, 5,000 NATO and partner troops, not to mention some 13,000 American contractors in the remaining five weeks, would be a logistical nightmare.

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

However, US President Joe Biden has become the butt of social media jokes after he mistakenly referred to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani as “Kayani” during his first press conference since taking office in January.

“And General Austin (US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin) just met Kayani (Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani). He is the leader of Afghanistan in Kabul… I am just waiting for a briefing on that”, said Biden, as he spelled out the interactions US officials have been having on Afghanistan with Washington’s NATO allies as well as other governments around the world in recent days.

Biden also stated in his response that he couldn’t “picture” US troops staying in Afghanistan next year.

While US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin paid a secret visit to Afghanistan over the weekend, on the heels of a trip to India, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Brussels this week to discuss the Biden administration’s strategy in Afghanistan in the coming months.

This is Afghanistan has been witnessing a surge in attacks targeting civilians and government installations in recent weeks, as the previously agreed 1 May deadline to pull out troops from the country approaches.

The Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for the uptick in violence, with the militant group denying any responsibility for the strikes.

Most recently, a militant raid at a police base on 13 March in the province of Herat, close to the Iranian border, resulted in the deaths of 22 people, including Afghan security personnel as well as civilians. The Taliban said that it didn’t carry out the strike, even as President Ghani remarked that the attack “demonstrated once again they [the Taliban] have no intention” of carrying forward the US-brokered intra-Afghan peace process.

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