The U.S. military will begin its final withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1, and it will end its 20-year-long presence in the country by Sept. 11 of this year, President Joe Biden said Wednesday — but he threatened to retaliate if the Taliban attacks U.S. forces on the way out.

Key Facts

Biden will pull out all 2,500 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he announced Wednesday afternoon (his decision to withdraw troops was first reported Tuesday).

Last year, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban agreeing to finish pulling out troops by May 1, but Biden is now indicating a withdrawal process will start on that date.

What To Watch For

Blowback from the Taliban. The militant group agreed last year to stop attacking U.S. troops as long as the United States leaves by May 1, and it has suggested a delay to that timeline could spark attacks. Biden said the United States will defend itself if the Taliban attacks U.S. forces during the withdrawal process.


Biden tacitly criticized former President Donald Trump for promising a May 1 withdrawal to the Taliban. Biden said he would not have signed that deal, but he feels obligated to follow it because “it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something.”

Key Background

American forces first arrived in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks almost 20 years ago, making it the longest war in U.S. history. The U.S. military quickly removed the Taliban from control over the country, but the group has continued to operate in Afghanistan, and a bipartisan chorus of skeptics — often including Biden — believes the conflict against the Taliban is obsolete and unwinnable. On Wednesday, Biden argued the United States has already accomplished its primary goal in Afghanistan by preventing foreign terrorist groups like al-Qaeda from using the country as a safe haven, and the war’s objectives are increasingly unclear, making a U.S. presence no longer necessary.

Crucial Quote

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for their withdrawal, and expecting a different result,” Biden said.


Some members of both parties believe Biden’s plan is premature, warning an emboldened Taliban could retake control over parts of the country and threaten the Afghan government’s stability. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Biden is “paving the way for another 9/11,” and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said the withdrawal “undermines our commitment to the Afghan people.”

Surprising Fact

Several members of Congress from across the political spectrum have applauded Biden’s decision: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he’s “glad” troops are returning, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called the plan “an act of extraordinary political courage.”

Further Reading

Republicans Split On Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal, With Some Calling It ‘A Grave Mistake’ And Others In Support (Forbes)