The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan has already started according to the White House. The withdrawal was slated to begin on Saturday and be complete by September 11.
Speaking to media members aboard Air Force One, Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “a drawdown is underway.”
While the Pentagon wouldn’t confirm details, it is believed that about 100 troops and some equipment have already left Afghanistan.
“Potential adversaries should know that if they attack us in our withdrawal, we will defend ourselves, [and] our partners, with all the tools at our disposal… The president’s intent is clear: The U.S. military’s departure from Afghanistan will not be rushed or hasty,” Jean-Pierre said.
“[The withdrawal] will be deliberate and conducted in a safe and responsible manner that ensures the protection of our forces,” she added.
At First, Troop Levels Will Increase
“While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all of U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2020.” She added that the administration’s intent was to have a “safe and responsible” exit from Afghanistan just prior to the 20th anniversary of the first U.S. troops to enter Afghanistan just after the 9/11 attacks.
The troop levels in the country will initially increase with the deployment of a 650-man task force from the Ranger Regiment. They will cover the troop withdrawal from the ground. Simultaneously, four B-52 bombers have been shifted to the Gulf region, and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s tour has been extended. The Eisenhower will conduct airstrikes from the north Arabian Sea if American troops come under attack.
The United States has about 2,500 troops remaining in the country, while NATO allies have about 7,000.
All contractors, non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and NATO troops will also withdraw.
The Withdrawal’s Delay May Reignite Violence
According to the peace agreement signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban, the withdrawal was to be completed by May 1. Therefore, this delay may re-ignite attacks on U.S. troops by the Taliban. Meanwhile, the Taliban have increased their attacks on Afghan government forces and facilities.
General Austin Scott Miller, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Operation Resolute Support, said on Sunday that the withdrawal of troops has started and other troops are shifting positions in preparation for leaving.
“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde. Officially the notification date will be the first of May, but at the same time as we start taking local actions we have already begun that,” Miller said.
During his first address to Congress on Wednesday night, President Biden said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan is an example of America’s leadership. He received a standing ovation from Democrats in the chamber.
“American leadership means ending the forever war in Afghanistan,” the president said.