White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that President Joe Biden will make his decision known on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before May 1 deadline.
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
“He has been consistent and clear that it is operationally challenging to get troops out by May 1,” Psaki told reporters, adding that it was a date set by the previous administration.
Biden has inched so close to the deadline that his indecision amounts almost to a decision to put off, at least for a number of months, a pullout of the remaining 2,500 troops and continue supporting the Afghan military at the risk of a Taliban backlash.
There are crosscurrents of pressure on Biden. On the one hand, he has argued for years, including during his time as vice president, when President Barack Obama ordered a huge buildup of U.S. forces, that Afghanistan is better handled as a smaller-scale counterterrorism mission. Countering Russia and China has since emerged as a higher priority.
On the other hand, current and former military officers have argued that leaving now, with the Taliban in aS position of relative strength and the Afghan government in a fragile state, would risk losing what has been gained in 20 years of fighting.
The White House was asked if there is anything the Biden administration can do to help companies caught in the global shortage of semiconductors, which has forced General Motors to further cut production at six North American factories as chip supplies seem to be growing tighter.
“We fully recognize that this is an issue impacting industries across the country, including the auto industry, ” Psaki said. She said there would be White House meetings next week to discuss the issue.
The chip shortage has already been rippling through various markets since last summer. It has made it difficult for schools to buy enough laptops for students forced to learn from home, delayed the release of popular products such as the iPhone 12 and created mad scrambles to find the latest video game consoles such as the PlayStation 5.
But things have been getting even worse in recent weeks, particularly in the auto industry, where factories are shutting down because there aren’t enough chips to finish building vehicles that are starting to look like computers on wheels. The problem was recently compounded by a grounded container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, choking off chips headed from Asia to Europe.
Psaki said the White House was “concerned,” about the spate of violence in Northern Ireland and joined British, Irish and Northern Irish leaders in their calls for calm.
Ukraine’s president on Thursday visited the area of conflict in his country’s east amid an escalation of tensions that has raised fears of a resumption of large-scale hostilities with Russia-backed separatists.
Officials in Ukraine and the West have raised concerns about increasingly frequent cease-fire violations in the country’s industrial heartland, known as Donbas. They also expressed worries about Russian troops’ buildup along the border with Ukraine.
Psaki said that the U.S. “is increasingly concerned by recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s border.”
“Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014. Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone. These are all deeply concerning signs,” she said.