ISLAMABAD: The United States has assured the Afghan Taliban that it will withdraw the American troops by July 4, the US independence day, sources familiar with the development said on Tuesday.
The Biden administration wants to mark independence day by pulling out troops from Afghanistan after a 20-year long war. However, unlike the US soldiers, the NATO forces and Resolute Support Mission (RSM) will remain in Afghanistan till September 11, the pull-out date initially announced by Biden.
Meanwhile, the US has also initiated the process of handing over Bagram airbase — one of the biggest US bases in the country — to the Afghan army. The entire process will take at least weeks to conclude.
The US forces have completed between “16-25 per cent of the entire retrograde process”, said CENTCOM in a press statement issued on May 25.
“Since the President’s [Biden] decision, the DoD [Department of Defence] has retrograded the equivalent of approximately 160 C-17 loads of material out of Afghanistan and have turned over more than 10,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition,” it added. According to the Central Command, the US has also handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defence.
The US is estimated to have spent $2 trillion in Afghanistan alone over the last 20 years, losing over 2,300 American soldiers during the fighting that ensued, along with an estimated over 47,000 Taliban and Afghan civilians, according to the Costs of War project.
Biden decided to call time on the two-decade deployment of troops despite insurgent violence flaring and negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government stalling.
The US insists it has achieved its aim of stopping Afghanistan serving as a “haven for terrorists” after uprooting Al Qaeda networks, and says it risks a never-ending military involvement if it does not pull out.
Top US general Mark Milley said it was not possible to predict Afghanistan’s fate after the withdrawal and warned of a “worst-case” outcome of a government collapse.
But along with its fellow Nato members, Washington insists it remains committed to Afghanistan.
“NATO Allies and partners will continue to stand with Afghanistan, its people, and its institutions in promoting security and upholding the gains of the last 20 years,” the alliance said in a statement last month.
“Withdrawing our troops does not mean ending our relationship with Afghanistan. Rather, this will be the start of a new chapter.”