If the Pentagon is to be believed, we are already 50% of the way through the United States’ anticipated exit from Afghanistan after two decades of fighting there. That doesn’t mean that half of our troops are already out of the country, however. The first stage of withdrawal has involved shipping out huge amounts of American hardware and military equipment. The rest has to be sold off, given away, or simply abandoned. Once that process is mostly wrapped up, the bulk of the troops will start shipping out. The new Secretary of Defense is being briefed on all of the options this week because, somewhat amazingly, there are still some key elements of our future strategy inside the country that haven’t been determined. The previous target date of July 4th is out the window, however, and the “end date” (whatever that winds up meaning) will likely arrive later in the summer. (Associated Press)
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer.
As early as this week, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie, will give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a range of military options for securing the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and providing counterterrorism support from outside the country once the withdrawal is complete, officials said. The number of American troops needed for the overall security missions inside Afghanistan will depend on a variety of requirements, and could range from roughly a couple hundred to a bit less than 1,000, officials said.
As I already mentioned, it’s somewhat alarming to learn the number of things that have not yet been decided when we’re already allegedly 50% of the way through bugging out. One of the biggest open questions involves whether or not we’re going to be maintaining an embassy inside the country. If we do (and it sounds like the Biden administration is leaning that way), how many civilian personnel will be stationed there and how many troops will be left behind to secure it? They’re currently talking about a force numbering anywhere from a few hundred to “slightly less than one thousand” soldiers.
If we’re planning on keeping an embassy in Afghanistan, are we to assume that the Biden administration believes that the current US-backed government in Kabul is still going to exist by the end of the year? I only ask because I haven’t seen very many foreign policy experts predicting that scenario. The general consensus seems to be that once the allied troops have departed, the Taliban is going to come roaring back with a vengeance. What happens to our embassy personnel then? I hope we’re not moving forward on the assumption that the Taliban is just going to start behaving normally like some sort of civilian government. It’s a terrorist organization and we can fully expect them to act like one.
There is also no firm plan for what to do with the thousands of translators and other helpers who have assisted the United States and our allies there for many years. We were informed back on March 17 that we probably only had two weeks to begin getting them out of the country. There were already Taliban units hunting them down and killing them even then. Now we’re less than a month from the previous estimate for our withdrawal and there hasn’t even been a decision made as to what to do about them?
Don’t get me wrong here. I still support the idea of pulling our troops out of Afghanistan. The job there is done and it’s been done ever since OBL hit the bottom of the ocean. But pulling out of that debacle is going to be quite complicated if we’re to do it correctly. Unless Biden is just playing his cards close to the vest, it sounds like this isn’t being planned at all thoroughly. And if this story ends with another bloodbath or a huge number of American and allied hostages being taken by the Taliban, it’s going to be a massively embarrassing failure.
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