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American European allies struggling to pace themselves, urge Washington to slow Afghan drawdown

Written by The Frontier Post

Svetlana Ekimenko

The American troop drawdown from Af-ghanistan was proceeding according to plan, according to an earlier press statement by Defe-nce Secretary Lloyd Au-stin, after US and NATO ground forces began to withdraw from the Isl-amic republic on 1 May, in line with an announcement made by President Joe Biden on 14 April.

As American officials suggest that the US troop withdrawal from Afghani-stan is proceeding according to plan and could be completed by as early as 4 July, the swift drawdown has reportedly triggered co-ncerns among some of Wa-shington’s European allies.

The NATO allies are said to be urging the US to delay the process to allow for more time required for a spate of coordination and support issues, according to Washington officials cited by The Wall Street Journal. Thus, Germany, which has about 1,100 Bundeswehr troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of a contingent that is the largest foreign force in the country besides that of the United States, sought a delay until 18 July, reported the outlet.

Washington has ostensibly conceded that the troop departure could be delayed by two weeks or longer to accommodate the allies’ requests.

US President Joe Biden announced on 14 April that troops would exit the Isla-mic republic completely by 11 September – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. However, military officials are cited as saying they could complete the withdrawal by the summer. The exit will miss a 1 May deadline that the previous Donald Trump administration had established in a 2020 peace deal with the Taliban.

Members of the US-backed NATO alliance similarly agreed this month to wrap up their 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan. “NATO Allies decided in mid-April to start the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces by 1 May and this withdrawal has begun. This will be an orderly, coordinated, and deliberate process,” a NATO official was cited as saying by AFP.

Washington has pledged to provide logistical support to its coalition partners throughout the drawdown, yet some states have reportedly voiced fears they would not have time to leave the Middle East nation before the designated date and suggested the American military maintain its presence there beyond 4 July. Alleged apprehensions voiced by European allies feed into earlier reported challenges of executing a swift exit from Afghanistan in coordination with so many partners in the US-led NATO coalition, which accounts for personnel from more than two dozen countries.

Regarding its presence in the central Asian country the latter has long adhered to an “in together, out together” pledge. Turkey has also been brought to the fore amid fears that the Taliban could overrun the Afghan government by the end of the year in the wake of the pullout.

Ankara, which for years has secured Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital Kabul and initially intended to stay until after the coalition withdrawal, has reportedly informed the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that its troops may leave early as well, according to the outlet.

Should Turkey go through with the move, this may be fraught with serious consequences, suggests the report, as some Western nations may opt to reconsider plans to keep their embassies open in the capital without an international force present to bolster security.

Even though airport security could be provided by international contractors in that eventuality, writes The Wall Street Journal, their presence is deemed unlikely without troops in place. In line with such a potential scenario, Western embassies might go so far as to review plans for maintaining even a reduced diplomatic contingent in Afghanistan, writes the publication.

Afghan Drawdown: President Joe Biden opted to call time on the two-decade deployment of troops to Afghanistan after the end of the US and NATO mission was made possible by the Trump administration.

In February 2020 Washington signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha which promised the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a pledge by the Islamist militia not to allow terrorists such as al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS) to freely operate in the country. The deal envisioned withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan by 1 May, yet President Joe Biden delayed the withdrawal once taking office.

Since US and NATO ground forces began to withdraw from Afghanistan on 1 May, the Taliban have conducted small, harassing attacks in Afghanistan that have failed to significantly impact the drawdown, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on 3 May.

Kirby added that the US Defense Department was still working on details of the future bilateral security relationship with the Afghan government once US forces leave the country. The US military has added F-18 fighter jets to the security detail offering protection to US troops who are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, according to Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US Central Command, overseeing American operations in the Middle East, has been tasked with assessing the security requirements of the ongoing withdrawal procedures.

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