The president plans to announce his decision on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post, which broke the story, and other outlets. Although the Taliban has threatened to renew attacks if the U.S. and NATO do not adhere to the deadline, it is not yet apparent if pushing the date back by months will lead to retaliation.
The nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan has had dire consequences. The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates as of January 2020 that 157,000 people in Afghanistan have been killed in the war since 2001, and more than 43,000 of those killed were civilians. More than 2,300 U.S. troops were killed in the conflict, according to the publication Stars and Stripes. The war has also “exacerbated the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, and environmental degradation on Afghans’ health,” the project says.
“Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, told the AP last year. And the country is “among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in February.
The Defense Department said as of January 2021, there are 2,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, although the New York Times reported in mid-March that the number was closer to 3,500. In addition to U.S. troops, there are approximately 7,000 additional foreign troops—mostly NATO—stationed there, according to the Post. At the height of the war, approximately 100,000 troops were present in the country. What is not yet clear is whether U.S. special operations forces and contractors will remain after the troops officially leave.
Trump had negotiated a deal last February with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1st of this year, but his negotiations left the Afghan government out of the process. In exchange, the Taliban pledged not to kill any American troops, nor would they let al-Qaeda or other extremist groups operate within areas under Taliban control.
People familiar with Biden’s plan told the Post that the U.S. will still play a role in the ongoing peace process and will still send humanitarian aid to the Afghan government and security forces.