WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is signaling a tougher line with the Taliban than his predecessor, with top officials warning that a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in May could be delayed if the insurgents fail to live up to their promises.
A flurry of statements and comments from the White House, State Department and Pentagon this week left no doubt that the Biden administration had a skeptical view of a shaky peace process launched by former President Donald Trump and the Taliban’s willingness to sever ties with Al Qaeda and other extremists.
The administration, which said it was carrying out a review of the situation in Afghanistan, faces a series of difficult choices that will force officials to weigh the risk of a Taliban takeover. Any delay in a U.S. troop pull-out could trigger an escalation of violence and prompt the Taliban to abandon peace negotiations with its adversaries in the Kabul government, former U.S. officials and military officers say.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Friday that the administration is “taking a hard look at the extent to which the Taliban are in fact complying” with provisions of a U.S.-Taliban deal signed last year.
The February 2020 agreement called for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops by May 2021 in return for the Taliban breaking with terrorist groups, sharply reducing violence and entering into peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Thursday the Taliban were failing to abide by their pledges under the deal, which was supposed to open the door to a peace settlement between the insurgents and the U.S.-backed Kabul government.