SecDef Austin Says Afghanistan Withdrawal ‘Slightly’ Ahead of Schedule

Reports say the US could be out of Afghanistan by July, although troops could stay to protect the US embassy

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday said the Afghanistan withdrawal process is “slightly” ahead of schedule.

“I can report to you today that the retrograde is proceeding on pace, indeed slightly ahead of it,” he told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a hearing on the Pentagon’s budget for 2022.

Austin did not offer further details, and according to The Hill, no lawmakers asked him to elaborate. But his comments come after a report from The New York Times said the US and its coalition allies will be out of Afghanistan by early to mid-July, well before the September 11th deadline set by President Biden.

On Tuesday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the “retrograde” process is between 16 to 25 percent complete, but the command is not disclosing troop numbers. CENTCOM said the US had removed approximately 160 C-17 cargo planeloads worth of material out of the country, and more than 10,000 pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

While the withdrawal process appears to be moving along, the US might try to keep troops in Afghanistan under the guise of protecting its diplomatic mission. Sources told The Sun that the US is considering keeping 600 Marines in the country for that purpose.

To maintain an embassy in Afghanistan, the US wants the Kabul airport to be secure from the Taliban or other militant groups. The Times and the Sun both reported that the US is hoping hundreds of Turkish troops who are currently guarding the airport would stay after other foreign troops are gone.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.