Pentagon says no decision made yet regarding US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan
The US says it has made no decision yet regarding the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, claiming that ‘violence’ must be reduced in the war-ravaged country, where American forces are present for the past 20 years.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the remarks on Friday, briefing Pentagon reporters on the outcome of a NATO two-day virtual meeting held on Wednesday and Thursday, whose top agenda was the fate of the alliance’s 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan.
“The United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan that puts [Afghan military] forces, or [NATO’s] reputation at risk,” the new Pentagon chief said during his first briefing since taking office last month.
“In the meantime, current missions will continue, and of course commanders have the right and the responsibility to defend themselves and our Afghan [military] partners against threats,” Austin added.
Former US president Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban militant group, which controls large parts of Afghanistan, in February last year to withdraw troops by May this year in exchange for the Taliban to halt attacks on foreign forces.
The future of the NATO deployment will be largely determined by new American President Joe Biden, who will either stick to the May withdrawal deadline or risk a bloody backlash from the Taliban by staying in Afghanistan.
The US along with its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of fighting terrorism and dismantling the al-Qaeda Takfiri terrorist group.
The invasion — which has turned into the longest war in US history — removed the Taliban from power, but the militant group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.