President Joe Biden gives his clearest signal yet that he would not meet a May 1 deadline to pull out all the US troops.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US will work with NATO allies on a “coordinated” withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Blinken spoke on Wednesday shortly before he was set to join the foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany for talks on Afghanistan in Brussels. Those talks will follow a wider meeting by NATO defence and foreign ministers.
On Tuesday, a US official told reporters that President Joe Biden had decided to completely withdraw US troops from Afghanistan on September 11, months later than the May 1 deadline agreed to as part of a deal reached by his predecessor Donald Trump and the Taliban last year.
Biden was expected to officially announce his plans for the withdrawal, which officials say will not be subject to further conditions from the Taliban, on Wednesday.
“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.
“Together, we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve and now it is time to bring our forces home,” he said.
Standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Blinken added: “We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan.”
Earlier on Wednesday, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that, given the US timetable, a withdrawal by NATO forces in Afghanistan was likely in September.
“We always said: we’ll go in together, we’ll leave together,” she told ARD public television. “I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we (NATO) will agree to that today.”
There are currently some 2,500 US soldiers in Afghanistan, down from the highest point of about 98,000 in 2011.
While the 7,000 non-US forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, greatly outnumber US troops, they rely heavily on US air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.