No Decision Yet on May 1 Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal: Blinken

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said that the United States so far has not made a decision on the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

“We boosted diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan ahead of the May 1st deadline,” Blinken told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Blinken said the US wants to see progress in terms of the Taliban’s commitment to disassociate from Al-Qaeda.

Blinken the US is engaged in a diplomatic effort to try to drive the warring parties to the table “meaningfully on a peaceful future for Afghanistan” and enlisting the UN and regional neighbors.

This comes as the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said on Tuesday that the May 1st deadline for withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan may have to be reconsidered because the Taliban are not meeting their commitments under a 2020 peace deal, Reuters reported.

The new US administration of President Joe Biden wants to revive stalled peace talks before May 1st, when the last 2,500 US troops must leave Afghanistan under the Feb. 29, 2020, deal struck between the Taliban and the former Trump administration.

Menendez became chairman of the influential foreign relations panel after Biden’s Democrats took control of the Senate in January.

He said that if intelligence reports showed that the Taliban was falling short, the deadline would have to be rethought.

Blinken last week proposed in a letter to Afghan leaders that a senior-level meeting take place “in the coming weeks” in Turkey.

The proposed UN-led conference on Afghan peace in Turkey may take place on March 27, sources close to the Taliban told TOLOnews on Wednesday.

US sources so far have not confirmed that the meeting will be held on March 27.

The Afghan government also has not commented on the Turkey conference.

In his letter, Blinken puts forth suggestions to the Afghan government to accelerate the peace process, including convening a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, proposals to facilitate discussion between the two sides to form a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, a meeting in Turkey between both sides to finalize a peace agreement, and a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.

However, along with these proposals, Blinken made clear that the United States is considering all options regarding Afghanistan, including the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal.