President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year was slammed by Russia and the Taliban on Wednesday, and was also criticized by the Afghan government. US troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly two decades following the 9/11 terrorist attacks committed by fundamentalist group al-Qaida.
Russia's foreign ministry said the US withdrawal strategy violates an agreement with the Taliban. The US had previously agreed to withdraw all troops out of Afghanistan by May 1, under a February 2020 deal with the Taliban that was brokered in Doha, Qatar. The late exit could fan the violence, according to Moscow.
"What is concerning in this context is that the armed conflict in Afghanistan might escalate in the near future, which in turn might undermine efforts to start direct intra-Afghan negotiations," a statement from the foreign ministry said.
What did the Taliban say?
The Taliban also called for the US to abide by the Doha agreement.
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces on the date specified in the Doha agreement," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter. "If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those who failed to comply with the agreement will be held responsible."
An unnamed Afghan government official said the US withdrawal plan was "irresponsible."
"It is the most irresponsible, selfish thing the US could do to its Afghan partners," the official told the DPA news agency. "They could have ended this in a responsible way, with a little more patience."
What is Biden saying about the withdrawal?
Biden is expected to defend his decision to withdraw during an address later on Wednesday, saying that it is "time for American troops to come home" from the longest war in US history.
"We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result," Biden will say during the address. "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I wil not pass this responsibility to a fifth."
UN condemns escalating violence
The backlash to the US withdrawal plan comes as a UN report released Wednesday showed nearly 1,800 civilians have been injured or killed in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2021. The UN has urged parties in the Afghan conflict to reduce the level of violence in the country.
The UN said 43.5% of the civilian casualties were caused by Taliban militants, with 25% of the killings caused by government forces. "Islamic State" (IS) militants and other groups also contributed to the casualties.
wd/dj (Reuters, dpa)