US to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal – News Vibe24

    US to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal - Times of India
    Washington: About 650 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the withdrawal from the main U.S. military force, which is set to take place in the next two weeks, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
    In addition, several hundred additional US forces will remain at Kabul airport, possibly until September. They will help Turkish troops provide security, a temporary move until a more formal Turkish-led security operation is launched, officials said on Thursday.
    Overall, officials said the U.S. expects to have U.S. and military command, its leadership, and most troops by July 4, or shortly thereafter, to meet a deadline ambition developed by commanders months ago.
    Officials were not authorized to discuss details of the withdrawal and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
    The withdrawal of most of the more than 4,000 troops in the country in recent months comes well ahead of President Joe Biden’s departure on September 11. And it comes amid accelerating gains on the Taliban battlefield, sparking fears that the Afghan government and army could collapse in a matter of months.
    Speaking in Paris on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted the escalating violence and said it was “a real danger” that if the Taliban tried to take the country by force, “we would see a resumption of war or possibly worse”.
    However, Blicken said, the Biden administration concluded that withdrawing US troops, as promised by the Trump administration to the Taliban in February 2020, would be a bad choice. The government believes the Taliban would have resumed attacks on US forces, escalating the war.
    “If we had not announced that we were leaving, then this detachment, in terms of attacking our forces and attacking the capitals, would have ended,” Blicken said.
    He said the continued US presence “would definitely help” the Kabul government. “But what is almost certain is that our army would have come to us and said, well, the situation has changed, we need more forces. And we would repeat the cycle we have been in for 20 years. And at some point, we have to to say he has to stop. ”
    Biden has been widely criticized by some Republicans for leaving Afghanistan, despite President Donald Trump making a 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw all US troops by May 2021.
    Officials have repeatedly stressed that security at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is a critical condition for retaining any US diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan. However, the decision to keep additional troops there for several more months makes it more complicated for the Biden administration to declare a real end to America’s longest-running war until later this fall.
    In a statement Thursday night, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that under Biden’s mandate, the United States would complete its withdrawal in early September. “Nothing has changed about this goal.” Kirby said. “The situation is dynamic and we monitor our progress on a daily basis. Speculation from anonymous sources about possible changes to this schedule should not be taken lightly.”
    On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme National Reconciliation Council, meet with Biden at the White House. The two Afghan leaders will also meet at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
    The withdrawal of most troops from early July was questionable due to complications, including the display of Covid-19 at the U.S. embassy and the push to oust Afghan interpreters and others who helped the U.S. out of the country. Officials say US commanders and NATO allies in Afghanistan have managed to overcome obstacles to logistical support that may have prolonged the withdrawal process. However, they also warned that plans for the final stages of the US military withdrawal could change if airport security agreements fall or there are other significant, unforeseen developments.
    As recently as last week, there was talk of a possible expansion of the US military presence at Bagram Airport, north of Kabul, but officials said the US presence at the base was expected to end in the coming days.
    The approximately 650 US troops scheduled to be a permanent presence in Afghanistan will provide security for the US embassy and some ongoing support at the airport. Officials say the United States has agreed to leave a C-RAM – or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system – at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, under an agreement with Turkey. The United States also plans to leave a helicopter support aircraft at the airport.
    According to officials, Turkey has largely agreed to provide security at the airport, as long as it receives support from US forces. US and Turkish military officials meet in Ankara this week to finalize the arrangements.
    On Wednesday, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, chief of staff, reported on progress toward an agreement with Turks on airport security. “I feel very comfortable that security at Kabul airport will be maintained and the Turks will be part of it,” he said.
    The withdrawal of US troops is on the rise just as the government is making plans to evacuate tens of thousands of interpreters and others who collaborated with US forces during the war and now fear for their safety.
    A senior administration official said Thursday that planning has accelerated in recent days for relocating Afghans and their families to other U.S. countries or territories as visa applications are processed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sudden plans. The administration intends to evacuate later this summer, most likely in August, according to a second official familiar with the talks but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
    The Pentagon said the military was prepared to assist the State Department as needed, but said charter flights might be enough to move visa applicants to Afghanistan, so no military air transportation is required.


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