The Pentagon was to withdraw its troops by September 11, which is the 20th anniversary since the terrorist attacks. However, President Joe Biden has now told them that they can complete the withdrawal a bit earlier. Officials had stated that the drawdown could be completed by this weekend, but it is actually complete. However, there are still a few issues to resolve in the coming weeks. These include a new U.S. military command in Kabul as well as talks with Turkey to establish a security arrangement at Kabul's airport. Officially ending the pullout is not expected to happen soon.
John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, stated that a "safe, orderly drawdown allows us to maintain an ongoing diplomatic presence and support the Afghan people's government and prevent Afghanistan becoming once again a safe haven of terrorists that threatens the homeland."
The administration is currently limiting its options to ensure the safety of thousands more Afghans who have yet to apply for special visas to enter the United States. Although the administration has stated that it is willing to relocate them to third countries in order to await visa approvals, they have yet to decide where. Officials suggested Friday that they might be relocated to Central Asia's neighboring countries, where they would be protected against retaliation from the Taliban and other groups.
While the White House and State Department declined to comment on the number of people to relocate or where they might go to, Uzkistan's foreign ministers were in Washington this week. The topic of Afghan security was brought up in meetings with Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Kirby stated that Austin approved Friday's new command structure for Afghanistan. This will allow the U.S. military to shift from warfighting to two new objectives: maintaining a U.S. diplomatic presence and maintaining liaison with Afghan military.
Austin's plan is for Army Gen. Scott Miller to become the top commander in Afghanistan and transfer his combat authority to Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie (based in Florida), before he resigns his command. A two-star Navy admiral will lead a U.S. Embassy military office, dubbed U.S. Forces Afghanistan-Forward will oversee the new mission to provide security for the Embassy and its diplomats.
To provide financial support to the Afghan police and military, as well as maintenance support for Afghan aircraft flying from Afghanistan, a satellite military office will be set up in Qatar.
Kirby stated that Miller, the longest-serving commander in U.S. forces, in Afghanistan, in the 20 years, would remain in command for "a few weeks longer" but did not give any more details. Miller will be in preparation for McKenzie's turnover and will also be travelling within and beyond Afghanistan.
Bagram Airfield was the heart of the war against the Taliban and to hunt down al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bagram Airfield was home to more than 100,000 U.S. troops at its peak around 2012, which was less than an hour north of Kabul.
Darwaish Rafi, Afghanistan's district administrator, stated that the Americans left Bagram overnight without any coordination. As a result, looters from the area stormed the gates unprotected before the Afghan forces regained control.
Raufi said that they stopped the looters and some were taken into custody. The rest were removed from the base. Raufi also told The Associated Press that the looters had ransacked many buildings before being captured by the Afghan forces.
However, Col. Sonny Leggett, U.S. military spokesperson, said that the handover took place over several weeks after Biden announced in mid-April that America would be withdrawing its last forces.
Col. Leggett stated that all handovers of Resolute Support facilities and bases, to include Bagram Airfield Airfield, were closely coordinated with senior government officials and our Afghan partners in security forces. This included leadership of local units at each base.
The Taliban welcomed the American withdrawal at Bagram Airfield. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, tweeted Friday's departure as a "positive move" and urged for the "withdrawal foreign forces from all areas of the country."
Most NATO soldiers had quietly left Afghanistan by this week. The AP has analyzed announcements from several countries and found that the majority of European troops have left without much ceremony. This contrasts with the public display of force and unity in which NATO allies backed the U.S. invasion of 2001.
The U.S. refused to give a date for the departure of American soldiers from Afghanistan due to security concerns. However, future security and protection of Kabul International Airport are still being negotiated. The airport is currently being protected by U.S. and Turkish soldiers. This is still the military mission that is ending.
The Resolute Support mission will continue to manage the facility until a new agreement is reached between Turkey and Afghanistan.