Kabul: Top US military commanders had suggested US President Joe Biden to consider putting in a residual force and setting conditions for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, which Biden rejected.
The top generals wanted Biden to wait for a peace agreement to be cemented before troop withdrawal by September 11 this year and were recommending against a full withdrawal.
The Wall Street Journal reported that according to US officials, General Frank McKenzie, commander of US forces in the Middle East; General Austin “Scott” Miller, who leads NATO forces in Afghanistan, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all recommended retaining the current force of 2,500 troops while stepping up diplomacy to try to reach a peace agreement.
Officials also said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired military commander for the region, shared the concerns of the senior officers, cautioning that withdrawing all US troops would suspend what amounted to an insurance policy for maintaining a modicum of stability in the country.
Biden announced his decision on troop withdrawal to Austin and General Milley on April 6, The Wall Street Journal said. Biden was set on pulling US forces out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House says it will guard against the risk of a new terrorist danger in Afghanistan by maintaining warplanes and counterterrorism capabilities at bases outside of the landlocked country.
Current and former military officials say, however, that the lack of a small but capable military presence in Afghanistan, including surveillance drones, would greatly complicate any US effort to project force from air bases in the Persian Gulf, aircraft carriers or possible bases in central Asia. Even protecting the US embassy in Kabul, they say, may prove to be a challenge, the newspaper reported.
The US Defense Department does not rule out the possibility of deploying additional capabilities to Afghanistan for the US drawdown, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday, according to Sputnik.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden announced an end to the forever war in Afghanistan after 20 years, which formed the longest war, US has been involved in. After Biden’s announcement, even NATO forces said that they will withdraw their forces by the US deadline of September 11. This comes even as the Taliban has warned the US of consequences if it does not withdraw its forces by May 1, as per the Doha agreement. The US, UN, Qatar are scheduled to meet to discuss the peace roadmap for Afghanistan in Istanbul from April 24 at the peace summit. Taliban, however, has refused to be a participant of any peace talks before troop withdrawal takes place.
Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should be conditions-based, otherwise, it will once again face the bitter experience of the past. Hasty withdrawal would worsen the situation and lead to civil war, said Afghan parliament speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani on Tuesday.
Even a US report on global threats issued on Tuesday said that US intelligent agencies are not keen about the chances of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government for the coming year. The intelligence agencies have warned that the Taliban believes it can successfully use force to shape the political reality on the ground. “Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory,” according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).