White House Defends Withdrawal Of Troops

Kabul: In a press statement released on Wednesday, the White House defended the troop withdrawal process and stated that they have achieved their goals in Afghanistan.

“We have long since accomplished the objectives that sent us to Afghanistan. It has been 10 years since we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. The terrorist threat from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is significantly degraded. Over the last 20 years, however, the terrorist threat to the United States has become more dispersed around the globe. Keeping thousands of troops concentrated on the ground in Afghanistan no longer makes sense as the most effective counterterrorism strategy when the threat has metastasized across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Our focus and posture need to adapt accordingly,” the release stated.

The United States will reorganize counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan. “We will hold the Taliban and the Afghan government accountable to their commitments not to allow terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil. Over the past few decades, the United States and our partners have trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces currently number close to 300,000, and they will continue to fight valiantly to protect the Afghan citizens. With the support of the Congress, we will continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. We will also continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls and to maintain significant humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan,” the statement added.

The US continues to pursue diplomacy and fully support peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations. It is time for other nations in the region, especially Pakistan, to do more to support Afghanistan and to support stability in the country. “However, we will not allow United States troops to be a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries. That is a recipe for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan,” the White House statement added.

Meanwhile, there are some who are opposing the hasty withdrawal. Advocates for Americans held hostage overseas are raising concerns that the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan will make it harder to bring home captives from the country.

An annual report from the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, released on Wednesday, examines the status of US government efforts to secure the release of hostages and unlawful detainees in foreign countries. The report’s findings are based on interviews with former hostages and detainees or their representatives and relatives, as well as current and former government and military officials.

Among the concerns raised by hostage advocates interviewed for the report is that once American troops leave Afghanistan — a process the Biden administration has said will be completed by Sept. 11 — “it will become more difficult to generate the intelligence needed to find Americans and conduct rescue operations for current hostages held in the area.”

They include Mark Frerichs, a contractor from Lombard, Illinois, who vanished in January 2020 and is believed held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, and Paul Overby, an American writer who disappeared in Afghanistan in 2014.

“They also fear that the further reduction of US physical presence in the country is an erosion of the leverage needed to make progress on resolving these cases,” the report states. “It is perceived by some advocates that securing the release of these hostages was not made a precondition for any settlement during the peace talks in Doha, Qatar with the Taliban.”

The departure of all US special operations from Afghanistan will make counterterrorism operations, including the collecting of intelligence on al-Qaida and other extremist groups, more difficult. The administration hopes to be able to compensate through the military’s wide geographic reach, which has only expanded with the advent of armed drones and other technologies.

The top US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has told the US Congress that he has repeatedly demanded the release of Frerichs and has “enlisted the support of senior Qatari and Pakistani officials on his behalf.”

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Latest from Newsfeed; Wednesday, June 9 2021