Senate says US may extend military presence in Afghanistan

Armed Services Committee head Jack Reid described the situation in Afghanistan as “one of the most challenging issues currently facing” US President Joe Biden

MAIN POSHTEH, AFGHANISTAN – JULY 3: U.S. Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. take cover as a 500 lb bomb explodes on a compound after the Marines took two days of enemy fire from the position on July 3, 2009 in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan. The Marines are part of Operation Khanjari which was launched to take areas in the Southern Helmand Province that Taliban fighters are using as a supply route and to help the local Afghan population prepare for the upcoming presidential elections. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The United States is likely to extend its military presence in Afghanistan despite its agreement with the radical Taliban (banned in Russia) to withdraw US forces and their allies by 1 May. US Senate Armed Services Committee chief Jack Reed, who represents the ruling Democratic Party, told a briefing on Wednesday.

“In the short term, I would expect some sort of extension [of US troops in Afghanistan]. And operationally, I think the military will insist that they need more time, even if they leave”, –  the lawmaker said.

Three options
In his view, the new US administration in Afghanistan “has essentially three options”.

“One: implement [last year’s] agreement <…> although the impression is that [the] Taliban did not follow its details, that negotiations [between Afghans] went on and off, mostly off. It is not only [the leaders] of the Taliban who should be doing that, but also the government of [Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani – in terms of mobilizing their own efforts. So there are two very reluctant parties, and we [the U.S.] are trying to bring them to the table [of negotiations],” Reid said.

He said, “The hope was that by now there would be a framework agreement on a collegial government in Afghanistan, giving some certainty for the future, some stability, and secondly, a clear and irreversible break between [the] Taliban and [the Russian-banned terrorist groups] al-Qaida, IS-Khorasan and other [similar] elements.” “This does not exist,” the senator noted.

“So as far as the May 1 deadline is concerned, it seems to me that the conditions, especially those put forward to [the] Taliban, have not been met. And even operationally, to withdraw [troops] in a few months is a very difficult and destabilizing effort,” Reid stressed.

“The second option,” he continued, “comes down to negotiating or indicating that you stay – not for an indefinite period of time, but some period of time, to try to accelerate those negotiations [for peace among the Afghans themselves]. “That could force the Taliban and the Afghan government to negotiate,” Reid, who represents Rhode Island in the upper house of Congress, is convinced.

“The third option is simply to say: we have to maintain our presence until the conditions [of previous agreements] are met <…>,” the senator believes.

In doing so, he described the situation in Afghanistan as “one of the most challenging issues facing US President” Joe Biden at the moment.

The US must ensure that Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terrorists planning attacks around the world, Reid said.

In addition, he called for consideration of the fact that some kind of “regional solution” to the Afghan problem is also required, involving the views of the states involved.

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