NATO Says Troops from Afghanistan Withdrawal Has Begun.
NATO has begun withdrawing its mission from Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s decision to bring US forces home, an alliance official said Thursday.
“The NATO allies decided in mid-April to begin the withdrawal of the Resolute Support Mission forces before May 1 and this withdrawal has begun. It will be an orderly, coordinated, and deliberate process,” an official told AFP. of NATO.
Members of the US-backed alliance agreed this month to wrap up their 9,600-strong mission to Afghanistan after Biden called for an end to Washington’s longest war.
The decision, which delayed the deadline agreed by former US leader Donald Trump by several months, came despite fears that it could allow the Taliban to regain power in the country.
The NATO official said that the security of the alliance’s troops “will be a top priority every step of the way, and we are taking all necessary measures to prevent damage to our personnel.”
“Any attack by the Taliban during the withdrawal will be met with a strong response. We plan to complete our withdrawal within a few months,” the official said, declining to elaborate on the schedule.
Biden said the US withdrawal will be completed on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States that triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan.
Germany’s Defense Ministry has said it plans to pull its 1,300 soldiers out of the country in early July.
NATO’s training and support mission, which includes about 2,500 US troops and relies heavily on Washington’s military assets, is staffed by 36 alliance member nations and partner nations.
The United States has said it is temporarily deploying additional troops to protect international forces as they withdraw and has extended an aircraft carrier presence in the region to support the withdrawal.
Trump struck a deal with the Taliban last year that was intended for US and allied troops to leave Afghanistan in early May, provided the attacks subside and the peace talks progress.
Biden decided to halt the two-decade-long troop deployment despite insurgent violence and stalled negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.
The United States insists it has achieved its goal of preventing Afghanistan from serving as a “haven for terrorists” after uprooting Al-Qaeda networks and says it risks endless military involvement if it does not withdraw.
Senior US General Mark Milley said Wednesday that it was not possible to predict Afghanistan’s fate after the pullout and warned of the “worst-case” of a government collapse.
But along with his fellow NATO members, Washington insists he remains committed to Afghanistan.
“NATO allies and partners will continue to support Afghanistan, its people and its institutions in promoting security and defending the achievements of the past 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 beginning of a new chapter.”
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