As President Joe Biden wrestles with his first major decision on American troops abroad, he suggests it's likely he'll end the war in Afghanistan that has dragged on for two decades by next year.
"I can't picture that being the case," Biden told reporters Thursday when asked whether the U.S. will have troops in Afghanistan in 2022. "We will leave; the question is when we leave."
The U.S. appears poised to keep the war going beyond an inherited May 1 deadline set last year in an agreement between former President Donald Trump's administration and the Taliban.
"Hard to meet the May 1 deadline for the tactical reasons," Biden said at the first news conference of his presidency. "We've been meeting with our allies, other nations who have troops in Afghanistan as well. If we leave, we're doing so in a safe and orderly way."
Biden, like Trump, has promised to end America's longest war. As of Monday, 2,352 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. It's estimated 3,500 troops remain in the country, according to reporting for The New York Times.
Biden did not detail when he expects a full withdrawal, or how much support the Afghanistan government would get from an expected Taliban offensive in America's absence.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes last year, Biden said a small group of troops would need to remain in Afghanistan to facilitate special operations missions. After conventional troops leave, it is unclear how much the U.S. will stay involved in counterterror operations in the country, or how those missions could be conducted.
Biden also said he plans to run for president again in 2024.
"My plan is to run for reelection, that's my expectation," he told reporters.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon