Some 650 US soldiers will remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main US military force completes its withdrawal, scheduled for the next two weeks, US officials reported.
That country’s forces will be at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to help Turkish troops provide security, as a temporary measure until a more formal Turkish-led security operation is established.
In this regard, the officials explained that the United States hopes to have the US military command and the coalition, its leadership and most of the troops out of Afghanistan by July 4, or shortly after, complying with a deadline that the commanders developed. months ago.
The departure of most of the more than 4,000 soldiers who have been in the country in recent months comes long before President Joe Biden’s September 11 deadline for withdrawal. And it comes amid the Taliban’s acceleration on the battlefield, fueling fears that the Afghan government and its armed forces could collapse in a matter of months.
Officials have repeatedly emphasized that security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement to keep US diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan. Still, the decision to keep additional troops there for several more months makes it more difficult for the Biden administration to declare a true end to America’s longest war until late this fall. And it keeps the conflicted country close to the forefront of America’s national security challenges, even as the White House tries to put the 20-year war behind it and focus more on threats from China and Russia.
On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, will meet with Biden at the White House. The two Afghan leaders will also meet at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and possibly other administration officials, the Pentagon announced.
The departure of most of the troops in early July had been questioned due to complications, including a COVID-19 outbreak at the US embassy and the push to get Afghan interpreters and others who helped the US out of the US. country.
Officials said US commanders and NATO allies in Afghanistan have been able to overcome logistical hurdles that could have prolonged the withdrawal process. But they also warned that plans laid out for the final stages of the US military withdrawal could change if airport security agreements fail or if there are other major and unforeseen events.
As recently as last week, the possibility of extending the US troop presence at Bagram airfield north of Kabul was discussed, but authorities said the US presence at the base is expected to end in the next few days.
The approximately 650 US troops that are planned to be a more permanent force presence in Afghanistan will provide security for the US embassy and some ongoing support at the airport. Officials said the United States agreed to leave a C-RAM, or a counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system, at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, as part of an agreement with Turkey. The United States also plans to leave helicopter support crews at the airport.