Biden gives deadline for US withdrawal from Afghanistan as clashes with Taliban continue
By Qiam Noori, dpa
Afghanistan – Despite the advance of the Taliban, US troops are to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31, President Joe Biden said on Thursday.
"The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way," Biden said during a White House press conference.
"I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan," Biden said.
Biden acknowledged that the Taliban have become stronger than ever since their regime was toppled in 2001, but said their rise to power could still be stopped, adding that the Afghan security forces had been well trained.
He also refused to call the mission failed, saying it had accomplished its goals of bringing al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden "to the gates of hell" and eliminating al-Qaeda's capacity to attack the United States from Afghanistan.
"We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it's the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country," Biden added.
Last week, US troops already left Bagram, which had been their largest base.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that US forces had completed more than 90% of their withdrawal process.
Fighting with Taliban militants continues
Meanwhile, fighting with Taliban militants continued for a second day in parts of the capital city of Badghis province, local officials said on Thursday.
The fighting has been raging since the morning in police district three and four of the Qala-e Naw city, provincial councillors Monisa Qaderi and Abdul Aziz Beig said.
Some shops and small businesses have been burned down during the fighting. The city has been in total shutdown since Wednesday when Taliban militants stormed it, the councillors said.
Hundreds of families have fled the city to the neighboring Herat province and remote villages of the province, according to the officials.
There has been no electricity since yesterday, and the prices of passenger vehicles have soared, the officials said.
According to councillor Abdul Aziz Beig, the surprise Taliban attack came after the defection of some high-ranking security officials to the militants.
The Taliban militants had sustained a high number of casualties in the past two days, largely due to being unfamiliar with the territory, councillors said.
Peace talks have stalled
It was the first time the Taliban tried to take control of a whole city since the start of the official withdrawal of the international forces from the country on May 1.
Badghis is a strategically important province that links western Afghanistan with Faryab province in the north of the country, where the Taliban militants have made significant advances in the past couple of weeks. The province also shares a border with Turkmenistan.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have stalled. But a Taliban spokesperson, Mohammad Naeem, said on Thursday that in a meeting between high-ranking Taliban officials and some Afghan politicians in Tehran, both sides have acknowledged that war is not a solution in Afghanistan and political settlements should be sought out.
Naeem added that another meeting would be held with the politicians in the near future to discuss a transition mechanism from war to lasting peace, an Islamic system for the country and how to achieve it.
US-led foreign forces went into Afghanistan in 2001 to root out the Taliban, which had given shelter to members of al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Late last month, the US government had said it wanted to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of August. Other NATO countries contributing to the international forces are following suit.
Cover photo: IMAGO / MediaPunch