KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military has begun its complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the top American commander there said Sunday, marking what amounts to the beginning of the end of the United States’ nearly 20-year-old war in the country.
“I now have a set of orders,” said Gen. Austin S. Miller, the head of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, to a news conference of Afghan journalists at the U.S. military’s headquarters in Kabul, the capital. “We will conduct an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that means transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces.”
General Miller’s remarks come almost two weeks after President Biden announced that all U.S. forces would be out of the country by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that propelled the United States into its long war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Biden’s announcement was greeted with uncertainty in Afghanistan, as it prepares for a future without a U.S. and NATO military presence despite a Taliban insurgency that seems dead set on a military victory despite talks of peace.
will probably return if the Taliban reassumes power — either through force or if they are incorporated into the government.
Holding the line for now are the Afghan security forces, which have endured a particularly difficult winter. Taliban offensives in the south and repeated attacks in the north despite the cold weather have meant mounting casualties ahead of what could be a violent summer as U.S. and NATO forces withdraw. Though the Afghan military and police forces together are said to have around 300,000 personnel, the real number is suspected to be much lower.
“I often get asked how are the security forces? Can the security forces do the work in our absence?” General Miller said. “And my message has always been the same: They must be ready.”
General Miller added that “certain equipment” must be withdrawn from Afghanistan, “but wherever possible” the United States and international forces will leave behind matériel for the Afghan forces.
There are roughly 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and around 7,000 NATO and allied forces. Those NATO forces will probably withdraw alongside the United States, as many countries in the coalition are dependent on American support.
aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, in case the Taliban decide to attack.