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US launches first steps to withdraw troops from Afghanistan: Top US commander

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Logar province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

The top US military commander in Afghanistan says the handing over of military bases and equipment to the Afghan forces has begun as Washington prepares to withdraw the remaining US forces from the country by September 11.

General Scott Miller, who has been commanding the US forces and the western NATO military alliance in Afghanistan since 2018, told reporters in the capital Kabul on Sunday that foreign forces will continue to have “the military means and capability to fully protect themselves during the ongoing retrograde and will support the Afghan security forces.”

“As we retrograde to zero US forces, we will turn over the (military) bases primarily to the (Afghan) Ministry of Defense and other Afghan forces,” Miller said.

Miller stressed he was acting on orders based on US President Joe Biden's decision to end America's longest war.

“Officially, the notification date will be the first of May. But at the same time, as we start taking local actions, we've already begun that.”

Miller said the military would also hand over all equipment that it does need to take back home.

“We're 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 added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the US military general also said that the Taliban have committed to break their relationship with al-Qaeda.

“I've had the opportunity to talk to Taliban members with the Taliban Political Commission, and I've told them a return to violence, an effort to force a military decision, would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and the Afghan people,” he said.

Two decades have passed since the United States, along with its NATO allies, invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. The ‘forever war’ – as some in the US has labeled it – removed the Taliban from power.

The militant group was removed, but not incapacitated and Afghanistan continues to be ravaged by persistent attacks.

In February 2020, the Taliban struck a deal with the administration of then US President Donald Trump that would have seen American troops withdraw by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden has pushed that deadline back to September 11.

Observers say a recent decision by Washington to reschedule the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will hinder the peace process and violate the deal with the Taliban.

The militant group has already threatened to resume attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan if Washington fails to meet the agreed May 1 deadline.

Taliban militants kill 7 Afghan policemen in ambush

In the most recent incident of violence, at least seven Afghan policemen were killed in an ambush by the Taliban in the province of Logar on Sunday.

"Seven policemen were killed and three wounded when the Taliban ambushed their vehicles in Mohammad Agha district of Logar province," said Dedar Lawang, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Fighting continues unabated across several provinces. The interior ministry said Sunday that the Taliban had carried out six attacks and 62 bombings over the previous 10 days, leaving more than 60 civilians dead and 180 wounded.

Thousands of Afghan civilians have lost their lives over the past two decades of conflict.

Washington has spent trillions of dollars on the war on Afghanistan.


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