White House Says Afghanistan Troop Drawdown Has Officially Begun
Following the earlier this month Biden-ordered full troop exit from Afghanistan slated to be completed by Sept.11 of this year, the White House on Thursday announced the military withdrawal has now officially begun.
While traveling aboard Air Force One, the deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed to reporters that “A drawdown is underway,” but also added the caveat that, “While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all of US military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2020.”
“The President’s intent is clear, the US military departure from Afghanistan will not be rushed.… It will be delivered and conducted in a safe and responsible manner that ensures the protection of our forces,” Jean-Pierre explained.
Previously Pentagon officials have described “increased forces levels” as constituting the security and personnel required to oversee a safe logistical exit from the country that includes a vast amount of military equipment and defense facilities that have accumulated over the course of the two-decade long war and occupation.
CNN details that “Fewer than 100 troops, along with military equipment, have been moved largely by aircraft to execute President Joe Biden’s order to begin the withdrawal process no later than May 1, according to several US defense officials.”
“There have been about 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan that are openly acknowledged, plus several hundred additional special operations forces. All of them will depart under the President’s orders,” the report adds. NATO at the same time is signaling a full draw down within months.
It’s likely these slew of new statements Thursday are intended to seek to assure the Taliban that an exit is indeed in motion. But Saturday could see a proverbial all hell breaking loose given May 1 is the deadline (from the Taliban’s perspective) based on the prior Trump admin-Taliban deal that was inked in February 2020.
“There is remarkable consensus within the region and the international community against a military takeover by the Taliban.”
I’m guessing the Taliban doesn’t care. https://t.co/hKUEd1qUiK
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) April 28, 2021
The Taliban has vowed to strike at any American targets should troops remain in the country after that date. US leaders are now worried that the Taliban could hit hard just as the Pentagon is in the midst of its draw down; and in the medium to longer term it’s expected that entire major cities could once again fall to the hardline Islamic fundamentalist group.
To protect the exiting US troops, over the past weeks the US has sent additional B-52 bombers to the region to safeguard the pullout, along with the presence in regional waters of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier.
Many pundits ultimately see this whole spectacle as just a recipe for continuing to stay far past Biden’s anticipated Sept.11 exit, given there’s a seeming endless number of ways this could go wrong. So it’s worth asking: will we still be seeing similar headlines of “drawdown has begun” a few years from now as the prior pattern has shown when it comes to America’s longest ever running war?
Thu, 04/29/2021 – 22:10