President Joe Biden said Thursday that he thinks it will “be hard to meet” a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as is required as a result of an agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year.
“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said at a Thursday news conference, adding, “It is not my intention to stay there for a long time. But the question is how and under what circumstances” does the withdrawal take place.
“But we are not staying a long time,” he continued.
Asked if U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan next year, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”
Biden’s comments came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan earlier this week. He met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, according to the traveling press pool.
“I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn,” Austin said in a tweet.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration signed the agreement with the Taliban last year. It called for all U.S. troops to leave the country by May 1 and for the insurgents to enter into peace talks with their adversaries in the Afghan government and commit to preventing Al Qaeda or other extremists from launching terrorist attacks from Afghanistan.
NBC News previously reported Biden is considering keeping American troops there until November, rather than withdrawing them by May 1.
About 2,500 U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, where there has been an American military presence since a U.S.-led force toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 for sheltering Al Qaeda militants who staged the Sept. 11 terror attacks.