US starts withdrawing from its longest war
International desk || shiningbd
The United States has formally begun withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan, bringing its longest war nearer to an end but also heralding an uncertain future for a country in the tightening grip of an emboldened Taliban.
US officials on the ground said on Saturday the withdrawal is a work in progress – and May 1 is just a continuation – but Washington has made an issue of the date because it is a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout.
The skies above Kabul and nearby Bagram airbase were buzzing with more US helicopter activity than usual as the withdrawal geared up, following the start on Thursday of a concurrent NATO drawdown.
Afghan security forces were on high alert on Saturday for any possible attacks on retreating American troops.
“The Americans will formally begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan starting May 1 and the Taliban might increase the violence,” acting Interior Minister Hayatullah Hayat told top police commanders, according to an audio clip given to reporters.
Afghan National Security Council adviser Hamdullah Mohib said the Taliban “may choose war” in an attempt to grab power after US troops fully exit, but security forces were ready to face the fighters.
The prospect of an end to the US presence after 20 years comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.
Hameed Hakimi of Chatham House told Al Jazeera from Cambridge the withdrawal process has been shifting the power vacuum and violence around Kabul.