As President Biden nears a decision about withdrawing the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he doesn’t have a “best” option — only the one that’s least bad for the United States and its allies. That’s probably keeping the troops in place a while longer to avoid a chaotic departure.
The burden of Biden’s choice of whether to honor a May 1 withdrawal deadline negotiated by the previous administration with the Taliban was obvious while I was traveling here with Gen. Frank McKenzie, the U.S. Central Command leader who’s responsible for this region. McKenzie met Friday with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who’s concerned about whether the new administration has a clear plan for what’s ahead in Afghanistan, where war has destabilized neighboring Pakistan for three decades.
Pakistan’s military leaders “would not be unhappy” if the United States extended its departure date, one Pakistani military official said in an interview after the Bajwa meeting. He urged that “there has to be a responsible withdrawal,” rather than a chaotic pullout that could affect Pakistan and other countries in the region.