US President Joe Biden is set to announce that American troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept 11, officials have told US media. Biden is due to make the announcement himself on Wednesday.
This means the US would miss the May deadline for a pull-out agreed with the Taliban by the Trump administration last year. Biden had previously said that deadline would be tough to meet.
The new deadline would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the US in 2001.
US and Nato officials have said the Taliban, a hardline Islamist movement, have so far failed to live up to their commitments to reduce violence.
The Taliban have been warned that if they attack US troops during the pull-out phase, they “will be met with a forceful response”, a senior US official told reporters, adding that Biden had decided a hasty withdrawal that would put US forces at risk was not a viable option.
At the same time, a review of US choices determined that now was the time to close the book on the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan to focus on more acute threats.
The Taliban said on Tuesday that it will now not attend a summit on Afghanistan’s future, due to be held in Turkey later this month.
“Until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, we will not participate in any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan,” Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, tweeted.
Many will see this decision as a boost to the Taliban, despite it being a breach of the May deadline the insurgents have insisted is adhered to. It seems unlikely they will now resume attacks on American forces given the short extension period. Nevertheless, the Taliban reaction so far has been hostile.
Many observers fear the Taliban will be tempted to wait out the withdrawal, and then push for outright victory or at least dominance.
The Afghan government has until now remained reliant on US air strikes to help hold the insurgents back.
The US has spent trillions of dollars and lost more than 2,000 service members since 2001 in what has been its longest ever war.
It has some 2,500 troops in the country as part of a 9,600-strong Nato mission.