Photo: ANDREW HARNIK / AFP
Almost 20 years after the start of the international military operation, US President Joe Biden has announced the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th.
The withdrawal should begin May 1 and be completed by September 11, Biden said in the White House on Wednesday.
With the decision, the entire NATO mission should come to an end - including the much-discussed Bundeswehr mission in the Hindu Kush.
For the battered country itself and the 38 million people there, uncertain times are dawning once again.
After the US decision to withdraw, NATO is already initiating the end of its operation in Afghanistan: the Allies had decided to start withdrawing from the country, the German press agency learned on Wednesday evening after a video conference of the foreign and defense ministers of the 30 alliance states of diplomats.
As early as Tuesday it became known that the USA, as the largest provider of troops, wanted to withdraw its soldiers without further conditions on September 11th - the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. The attacks for which the terrorist network Al-Qaeda is responsible was made, had triggered the invasion of US-led troops in Afghanistan.
The international military operation led within a few weeks to the overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had refused to extradite the Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, the US government had agreed with the Taliban that all international troops would withdraw by May 1.
Biden is now breaking this promise.
According to official information, there are currently around 2,500 regular US soldiers in Afghanistan.
At its peak ten years ago it was around 100,000.
The withdrawal was also a central theme of a switch of the foreign and defense ministers of the NATO countries.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin came to Brussels in person.
A US government official said the withdrawal would be coordinated with NATO states and other partners.
"We went in together, agreed together, and now we're going to prepare to go out together."
Currently, including the US troops, there are still around 10,000 soldiers from NATO countries and partner nations in Afghanistan to support the democratically elected government by training and advising security forces.
Among them are about 1000 German soldiers.
Despite the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, the US government does not want to make the withdrawal conditional.
"The president has decided that a conditions-based approach that has been the approach of the past two decades is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever," said one government official.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said after a phone call with Biden on Twitter that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the US decision.
They will work with US partners to ensure a smooth transition.
In addition, they will continue to work with the USA and NATO on ongoing peace efforts.
Ghani also assured that the country's security forces were able to defend the country and the people.
In Afghanistan, however, the decision sparked disappointment and resignation.
A government negotiator in the peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, who did not want to be named, called the decision the "most irresponsible and selfish" thing America could do to its Afghan partners.
The militant Islamist Taliban, on the other hand, insist on the originally agreed date for a withdrawal by May 1st.
The insurgents had recently threatened new violence against NATO troops if the deadline was not met.
In response to the US's new plans, the Taliban ruled out participation in a peace conference planned for late April in Istanbul.
mjm / dpa