U.S. President Joe Biden has warned that a deadline set out in a deal made by his predecessor, Donald Trump, with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1 "could happen, but it is tough."
He made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with ABC News that aired on March 17. "I'm in the process of making that decision now as to when they'll leave," Biden said.
"The fact is that, that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president -- the former president -- worked out. And so we're in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision's going to be -- it's in process now."
Biden’s interview, in which he called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a "killer" who has no soul and will soon "pay a price" for trying to meddle in last November's presidential election, came the day before an important conference on Afghanistan in Moscow.
Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will participate in the event on March 18, alongside the Taliban and Afghan government representatives.
The Taliban, however, has warned of "consequences" if Washington fails to meet the deadline to withdraw forces by May 1. "The Americans should end their occupation in accordance with the Doha deal and fully withdraw their forces from Afghanistan by May 1," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
The Afghan peace process has largely been stalled since Kabul and the Taliban began direct talks in September. Washington blames the Taliban for a spike in violence that has targeted civilians, government workers, and journalists.
Earlier this month, the United States circulated an alleged new plan for reinvigorating the peace process. The plan was also backed by a letter by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urging him to support the plan, which envisions an interim government and a cease-fire. Blinken also outlined a new diplomatic push led by the United Nations to win the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional powers for the peace process.
Turkey is also planning to host a senior-level meeting of Taliban and Afghan government representatives in the coming weeks “to finalize a peace agreement."