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Biden Calls Afghan Pullout Deadline of May 1 ‘Tough’

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US President Joe Biden has said that it will be “tough” for the US to meet a May 1st deadline to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, but that the complete drawdown won’t take much longer. 

“That was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president, worked out,” Biden said in an interview with ABC News.  

 “We’re in consultation with our allies as well as the government and that decision is in the process now,” he said.  

The deadline to end America’s longest war six weeks from now was set under an agreement reached by former President Donald Trump and the Taliban, without the buy-in of the Afghan government. 

Biden, in the interview, said of the May 1 deadline: “It could happen, but it is tough.” If the deadline is extended, he added, it won’t be by “a lot longer.” 

This comes hours after Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, joined by political leaders and peace negotiators, left Kabul on Wednesday for the Moscow conference on Afghan peace to be held on Thursday.

“We acknowledge the pivotal role of Afghanistan’s neighbors and Russia in establishing a lasting peace in the country,” Abdullah’s office said. “We strongly believe that the Moscow conference will boost the Doha peace talks, and the upcoming Turkey conference on Afghanistan.” 

In the meantime, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Tuesday said it appreciates efforts made by Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and regional and international partners for peace and emphasizes the importance of continuing these efforts and cooperation.   

“Appreciating the importance of the Troika meeting on Afghanistan peace in Moscow and the proposed peace conference in Turkey, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers them complementary to the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in Doha and not as a substitute to it,” the ministry said in a statement.   

The US State dept has confirmed that the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will participate in the upcoming Moscow conference that is scheduled for the end of this week. 

Officials from the Jamiat-e-Islami party said that no representatives from the party have been invited to the Moscow conference that is scheduled for Thursday. 

There are unconfirmed reports that a meeting will be held between Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Moscow. 

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said that he will not transfer authority without elections, as pressure mounts for Afghans to consider a new US proposal for peace, which includes a plan for an interim government.  

Ghani made the remarks during a seminar on Afghanistan’s foreign policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Referring to the government’s peace roadmap, Ghani said it will help to achieve the desired goals of national sovereignty, a republic system, national unity, neutrality, connection, and a “lasting and just peace.” 

On the transfer of power, Ghani said: “If the Taliban are ready for elections tomorrow, we are also ready to participate in the elections, but I am not ready to transfer the power to my successor without elections. 42 years of war is enough, we also have the right to live in peace like other civilized nations of the world.” 

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