A top lawmaker hints at a possible “deal” with the Taliban to allow a US counter-terrorism force to remain in Afghanistan beyond May 1 deadline to withdraw remaining troops as envisaged in an agreement signed by former president Donald Trump in February 2020.

House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith’s comments provided new details of President Joe Biden’s conduct of the Afghanistan peace process that he inherited from his predecessor.

“What the Biden administration wants to do is negotiate past May 1 and then at least explore the option: has the Taliban changed their mind as they … are fighting ISIS (Islamic State) almost as much as they are fighting the Afghan government,” Smith continued.

He doubted that the Taliban would agree about a US presence. “But I think the administration is thinking it’s worth the conversation,” he added.

The State Department referred the matter to the White House but there is still no word from there and the Pentagon. US officials have said Biden has made no decision on the deadline to withdraw the troops.

The president has already said it would be “tough” to meet the deadline.

Addressing an online Foreign Policy magazine forum, Smith said he spoke to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the withdrawal.

“I think there’s a general feeling that May 1 is too soon, just logistically,” he said. “We’ve got … closer to 3,500 troops in Afghanistan. Our allies have around 7,000.”

Smith thinks it is impossible to pull out 10,000-plus troops in six weeks. At present, the administration’s “job one” is talking to the Taliban about allowing the US-led force to remain for a little longer.

Referring to the Taliban’s demand of complete withdrawal, Smith said that if that remains their position, “I don’t see that we have much choice but to leave,” including counter-terrorism forces.

The Taliban has been fighting Islamic State’s local affiliate, and US airstrikes on ISIS have proved critical to helping them rout their rivals.

But, experts say, Islamic State remains a serious threat.

The Taliban have indicated they will resume attacking foreign forces if Biden fails to meet the May 1 deadline, and some experts doubt they would allow any US force to stay.


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