The US will likely increase the presence of its troops in Afghanistan temporarily over the coming weeks and months to fulfill President Joe Biden’s order to safely withdraw all forces from the country by Sept. 11, the Pentagon said Friday.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby did not provide details on this but said military leaders are still working out the details are still being worked out.
Kirby made a common comparison to 2011 when the United States withdrew troops from Iraq and said this drawdown will be “scoped and tailored to the situation.”
“It’s a landlocked country, and there is clearly the potential for resistance here, opposition, as we begin to draw down,” Kirby said. “It’s not out of the realm of the possibility that some temporary enabling functions may have to be introduced into the region to permit this to be as safe and as orderly as possible. That would be the right thing to do. The prudent thing to do. It would irresponsible if we weren't thinking about that.”
The US president on Wednesday announced that his troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terror attack on the US that led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
NATO also announced it would follow the same timetable for withdrawing more than 7,000 allied forces.
The Pentagon spokesman said it was not clear how many troops would be out of the country by May 1 as a signal to the Taliban that the US was abiding by its new plan to begin leaving.
The Taliban has warned that it will retaliate if the US does not abide by the Doha agreement.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited Kabul last week, has made it clear that the US is keenly aware of the Taliban threats, and that any attacks on the US or allied personnel or facilities would face a strong reaction by the United States.
Kirby echoed Austin’s assertion that the United States will keep counterterrorism “capabilities” in the region to keep pressure on extremist groups operating within Afghanistan.
“It’s still in our national security interest that terrorist attacks on the homeland don't emanate from Afghanistan, and that it not be a safe haven for groups like Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that would threaten the homeland,” Kirby said.
However, there are increasing concerns from former and incumbent US officials and lawmakers on the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
Former US national security adviser HR McMaster said the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan as the Taliban continues its murderous attacks on Afghan civilians and security forces is a moral travesty and a strategic disaster.
“We are abandoning courageous Afghans on a modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization,” he said in a tweet on Friday.
Reacting to the decision, Britain’s Army chief General Sir Nick Carter has said it was “not a decision we hoped for” but added that the UK respected the stance taken by the new administration.
US Senator Lindsey Graham has said the decision will favor al-Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan.
“The government will deteriorate rapidly. People will go back to their corners. The Taliban will gain strength in the south and the central government in Kabul will lose its ability to effectively manage the country,” Graham said. “It’s tenuous already that the Haqqani network, a terrorist organization named by our State Department to be a terrorist organization, will reign in the east. The northern alliance who were the mortal enemy to the Taliban will reconstitute and form militias in the north. In the west Herat which on the border of Iran and a major city in Afghanistan and then the Iranians will have a major influence.”