Biden Decision to Delay Afghanistan Withdrawal to 9/11 Could Escalate Taliban Conflict

President Joe Biden's plan to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan until September 11 could escalate tensions with the Taliban.

According to the Associated Press, Biden is scheduled to announce the delayed withdrawal date in the upcoming days, and will set the date as the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

His decision could escalate the conflict between the U.S. and the Taliban as the September 11 date is a delay from the date that was set forth by former President Donald Trump's administration.

In February 2020, the Taliban agreed with Trump's administration to stop attacks against Afghanistan and to conduct peaceful discussions with the Afghan government as long as the U.S. conducted a complete withdrawal of its troops by May 1.

Prior to Biden's scheduled decision, in March he said, "It's going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline," adding that "if we leave, we're going to do so in a safe and orderly way."

While speaking on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the reports saying, "Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to honor slain U.S. Capitol Police officer William Billy Evans as he lies in honor at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 13. Biden is scheduled to announce the delayed withdrawal date for troops from Afghanistan in the upcoming days. Pool/Getty

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Biden has been hinting for weeks that he was going to let the deadline lapse, and as the days went by it became clear that an orderly withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 troops would be difficult and was unlikely. U.S. officials provided details on Biden's decision on condition of anonymity, speaking ahead of the announcement. It was first reported by The Washington Post.

His decision risks retaliation by the Taliban on U.S. and Afghan forces, possibly escalating the 20-year war. And it will reignite political division over America's involvement in what many have called the endless war.

Setting the 9/11 date, however, underscores the reason that American troops were in Afghanistan to begin with—prevent extremist groups from establishing a foothold in the country again that could be used to launch attacks against the U.S.

Over the past year, U.S. military commanders and defense officials have said that attacks on U.S. troops have largely paused, but they say the Taliban have increased attacks on the Afghans. Commanders have argued that the Taliban have failed to meet the conditions of the peace agreement by continuing attacks on the Afghans and failing to totally cut ties with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.

When Biden entered the White House in January, he was keenly aware of the looming deadline and had time to meet it if he had chosen to do so. He launched a review of the February 2020 agreement shortly after taking office, and has been consulting at length with his defense and military advisers as well as allies.

In recent weeks, it became increasingly clear that he was leaning toward defying the deadline.