Most of the European troops have already pulled out of Afghanistan, quietly withdrawing months before the US-led mission was officially expected to end, AP reported.
On Wednesday, Germany and Italy declared their missions in Afghanistan over and Poland’s last troops returned home, bringing their deployments to a low-key end nearly 20 years after the first Western soldiers were deployed there.
Announcements from several countries analyzed by the AP show that a majority of European troops has now left with little ceremony — a stark contrast to the dramatic and public show of force and unity when NATO allies lined up to back the US invasion to rid the country of al-Qaida after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In April, US President Joe Biden announced that the US troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11.
In the ensuing decades, the war went from one mission to another. Former US President George W. Bush’s administration shied away from nation-building and the United Nations advocated a light footprint. But with the passing years, NATO and US troops took on greater roles developing Afghanistan’s National Security and Defense Forces and training police. At the war’s peak, the US and NATO military numbers surpassed 150,000.
NATO agreed in April to withdraw its roughly 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan to match Biden’s decision to pull all American troops from the country, starting May 1.
The US has refused to give troop figures, but when Biden announced the final pullout, between 2,500 and 3,500 troops were deployed. As of February, a total of some 832,000 American troops had served in Afghanistan, while about 25,100 Defense Department civilians had also served there.
The US has also refused to give a clear date for a final withdrawal.
On Tuesday, the US Defense Department called on the Taliban to return to the peace negotiations, reminding them that the violence remains too high in Afghanistan.
“What we want to see, what we'd like to see is the Taliban return to the peace process in a credible way,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “The violence remains too high, and we’re all aware of all of the security situation in Afghanistan.”
“I think you saw General Miller speak to that earlier today, concerns over the security situation there,” he added.
Referring to recent attacks by the Taliban, Kirby said, “We see events on the ground unfold, it certainly calls into question the sincerity of their efforts to be a legitimate, credible participant in the peace process.”
“That's really the right future for Afghanistan as a political process that leads to a negotiated settlement and a peaceful end to the fighting in Afghanistan. And that's what we're in favor of. That's what the administration's policy continues to try to pursue,” Kirby said.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), at the council’s leadership committee meeting at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday said that “the survival of Afghanistan is in danger.”
The sixth leadership committee meeting of the HCNR was held at the Presidential Palace and was attended by President Ashraf Ghani, HCNR members and other government officials.
“The truth is, today the survival, security and unity of Afghanistan is in danger.” Abdullah said. “There is no better way than peace.”
“With the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, the war has escalated. Unfortunately, the Taliban side has taken advantage of this, and the foreign troop withdrawal has naturally left a vacuum in some areas,” said Abdullah.
“Although teams from both sides are in Doha and in contact, we have not witnessed any progress," Abdullah said. “They (the Taliban) take very slow steps in the peace talks but have increased the war on the battlefield.”
“Unfortunately, the Taliban wasted time in the peace process over the months, and there was concern among the people that the Taliban had no intention or will to seek peace. This concern is now growing day by day,” he said.
“The truth we are facing is the escalation of the war. In today’s meeting, I cannot see anyone that says we must continue the war and the way out is war.”