America’s top general in Afghanistan said Sunday that the U.S. military has already begun closing down operations in the country in preparation for a full withdrawal.
“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde,” Army Gen. Austin Miller told Afghan journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kabul.
Miller added that the official notification date for the withdrawal would be May 1, but added that “as we start taking local actions, we’ve already begun that.”
The general told reporters that he is often asked whether Afghan security forces can do the work in the absence of U.S. and other foreign troops.
“My message has always been the same. They must be ready. They must be ready,” Miller said, according to RFE/RL.
Miller said that while some equipment would be brought back to the United States, some would be left behind to support Afghan forces.
“Wherever possible, if we do not have to, we are looking to ensure that the Afghan security forces have the bases, pieces of equipment, parts that are necessary for the functioning of the military,” he said, according to CNN.
The United States completely withdrawing from Afghanistan will make fighting terror more difficult, a top general said last week.
“If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that, it will just be harder to do it,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told members of Congress in Washington on April 20.
McKenzie said drone strikes that target terrorists would, in the absence of a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, have to originate in nearby countries. Top U.S. officials are looking into reaching agreements with countries near Afghanistan to locate resources.
“I think some of the forces are going to remain in Central Command because we are going to look at offshore, over-the-horizon options,” McKenzie said.
“I’m actually conducting detailed planning, by the direction of the secretary, to look at those options right now. I will report back to him by the end of the month with some alternatives,” he added.
President Joe Biden recently announced that all U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, months after the withdrawal deadline set by his predecessor.
Biden said that it’s time to end “America’s longest war.”
The president’s decision to withdraw the remaining troops has drawn a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill and from security experts, while national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the Biden administration “can’t make any guarantees” that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS won’t see a resurgence once U.S. forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan.