Biden to consider keeping counterterror forces in Afghanistan

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may consider keeping a small contingent of counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan, a move expected to face resistance from the Taliban, analysts told Stars and Stripes.

But analysts say the Biden administration is expected to retain most aspects of the US-Taliban deal struck in February.

Like President Donald Trump, the president-elect has spoken out against “forever wars,” including America’s longest, in Afghanistan. But while Trump wanted all troops home by Christmas, Biden has said he would consider keeping a small counterterrorism force there, Stars and Stripes reported.

“I support drawing down the troops. But here’s the problem, we still have to worry about terrorism and [the Islamic State],” Biden told Stars and Stripes.

Earlier this week Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a congratulatory tweet to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris that he wanted to continue and deepen the “multilayered strategic partnership with the United States … including in counterterrorism and bringing peace to Afghanistan.”

The Taliban, on the other hand, have told Biden he should stick firmly to the deal negotiated by his predecessor — even though they have fallen short of meeting several of the conditions — and fully withdraw international troops by the agreement’s May deadline.

“The Islamic Emirate would like to stress to the … American president-elect and future administration that implementation of the agreement is the most reasonable and effective tool for ending the conflict between … our countries,” the group said in a statement.

Although there have been calls from Afghan lawmakers for the deal struck by the Trump administration and the Taliban to be renegotiated — including the clause calling for the full withdrawal of international forces — doing so would mean the U.S. would have to “recommit to war,” said Ashley Jackson, a researcher with the Overseas Development Institute to Stars and Stripes.

“And I don’t know if the U.S., or Biden specifically, is willing to do that,” Jackson said. “Whatever he does, he’s walking a tightrope.”

U.S. military leaders have said withdrawing all international troops from the country was contingent on the Taliban meeting the conditions in the deal. The focus of the new U.S. administration will be to ensure the security of the United States and its allies, analysts said.

“If the Biden Administration is satisfied on that front, it might largely keep the same deal,” university lecturer and journalist Dawood Azami said.