A new report by a group created by the U.S. Congress has called on the Biden administration to extend the May deadline for the U.S. military to withdraw remaining troops from Afghanistan.
In its reports issued on February 3, the Afghanistan Study Group recommended keeping U.S. troops in the conflict-ridden country “in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.”
The Afghanistan Study Group is a bipartisan congressionally mandated panel under the United States Institute of Peace.
In the report, the panel said the United States has a major interest in safeguarding Afghanistan from “becoming again a safe haven for terrorists.”
Under a February 2019 agreement the United States signed with the Taliban, Washington committed to reducing its troops in Afghanistan to zero by May 2021.
Former President Donald Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on stopping “ridiculous endless wars” in the Middle East, accelerated the reduction of U.S. troops in November.
The Pentagon on January 28 said the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan would be contingent on the Taliban’s commitment to uphold the deal reached in February 2019.
“The Taliban have not met their commitments,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters during a press briefing.
He added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was reviewing the matter and had discussed the path forward in the war-torn country with NATO allies and partners.
Also in the report released on February 3, the panel called for continued U.S. support of key Afghan institutions, including security institutions, “while continuing to message our Afghan partners that this support is not open-ended and is conditioned on progress in the peace talks.”
It also urges Washington’s continued backing of Afghan civil society, which it said "have been instrumental in securing essential gains in rights, education, and health and who have been and will continue to be key in supporting a sustained peace.”
The Taliban and the Afghan government have been negotiating in Qatar to reach a peace deal. Those talks resumed In January after an almost month-long break, but negotiators and diplomats say there has since been little progress.