Politico published an article on Wednesday that cited two unnamed US officials who said the Afghanistan withdrawal is essentially complete, although there are plans to keep troops in the country. “The withdrawal is over, for all intents and purposes,” one official said. “It’s done.”
The official said currently, about 600 US troops remain in Afghanistan. Most of the troops are Marine Corps or Army personnel who will stay at the US embassy in Kabul. The rest of the 600 will be based at Hamid Karzai International Airport, which is also located in Kabul.
The report said these 600 troops will stay after the US officially completes the withdrawal. The only military personnel left in Afghanistan that will be pulled out before President Biden’s September 11th deadline are Gen. Scott Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, and his staff.
As part of Washington’s post-withdrawal plans, Miller’s authority to carry out operations in Afghanistan will be transferred to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command. The Pentagon has established a new military command structure that will run out of the Kabul embassy, and its duties will go beyond diplomatic security.
Turkey has agreed to help the US control the Kabul airport, and the two countries are in the process of working out an agreement on the mission. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar spoke with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the matter Wednesday. The Turkish defense ministry said the two leaders had a “constructive and positive meeting” on the airport plan, but it doesn’t appear a final deal has been agreed upon at this point.
Details of what the US footprint in Afghanistan beyond September 11th will look like have not been officially shared by the Biden administration. President Biden is expected to speak on Afghanistan on Thursday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president will discuss “our continued drawdown efforts and ongoing security and humanitarian assistance” to the Afghan people and military on Thursday afternoon.
US Central Command said Tuesday that the withdrawal was over 90 percent complete. “While the withdrawal is over 90 percent complete, it is not done,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Politico. “Temporary Enabling Forces remain in theater that are focused on providing security for a safe and orderly withdrawal. As long as these forces and certain contract support are still there, the withdrawal is ongoing.”