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US foreign policy

Biden delays withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan until September

But if the Taliban conducts attacks against US forces, “we will hit back hard and we will hold them accountable,” a senior administration official told reporters

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President Joe Biden has set a new date for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

US troops were supposed to be out of Afghanistan by May 1, according to a deal reached between the Trump administration and the Taliban last year.

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The new withdrawal date will be “no later than the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. “It could be well before that,” the official added.

But if the Taliban conducts attacks against US forces, “we will hit back hard and we will hold them accountable,” the official said.

And the US will keep “significant assets” in the region in case there is a potential reemergence of terrorist threats.

That would mark 20 years since terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and other US cities. The 9/11 attacks drew the US into one of its longest wars in history after the Bush administration sent troops to Afghanistan in an effort to root out al-Qaeda, which was based out of Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has urged Biden and the Pentagon not to withdraw over fears that the Islamist Taliban would take over the country.

Last month, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the US had spent $825 billion in Afghanistan since 9/11.

“Afghanistan just does not rise to the level of those other threats at this point,” the Washington Post quoted a person familiar with Biden's plans as saying earlier. "We are going to remain committed to the government, remain committed diplomatically. But in terms of where we will be investing force posture, our blood and treasure, we believe that other priorities merit that investment,” the person reportedly said.

Since taking office, Biden has said that Russia and China pose the biggest threats to Washington and to the international community.

Read more: US joins Russia, China, and Pakistan in call for ceasefire in Afghanistan