The U.S. military estimates that it has pulled out more than 50 percent of its equipment and troops from Afghanistan.
“U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimates that we have completed greater than 50% of the entire retrograde process,” the command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said in a press release on Tuesday.
CENTCOM also said the U.S. Department of Defense had retrograded about approximately 500 C-17 planeloads of material from Afghanistan and had turned over more than 13,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition.
In addition, six U.S. facilities have been handed over to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
On April 14, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which marks the 20th anniversary of the most deadly terrorist attacks on American soil by terrorist group al-Qaeda, which openly operated in Afghanistan with the support of the Taliban, a terrorist group that ruled the Central Asian country.
“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country and across the billions [of dollars spent] each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders,” Biden said at the time. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan—hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result.”
At the time of Biden’s announcement, at least 2,500 U.S. troops were serving in Afghanistan, the lowest level of American forces there since 2001. Under a conditional peace deal signed between the Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, the withdrawal of then-13,000 American forces in Afghanistan would have been completed by this May, if the Taliban upheld its promises, including severing ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and preventing any of its members from using Afghan soil to threaten the United States and its allies.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is still negotiating with countries in the region for new locations to continue its counter-terrorism mission. According to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the Pentagon has been exploring Pakistan, which shares a long southern border with Afghanistan, as an option for its bases.
“We have had constructive discussions in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America’s capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which al Qaeda or ISIS or any other terrorist group can attack the United States,” Sullivan said Monday during a White House press briefing, adding that he was not able to provide details about those negotiations.
“What I will say is that we are talking to a wide range of countries about how we build effective, over-the-horizon capacity, both from an intelligence and from a defense perspective, to be able to suppress the terrorism threat in Afghanistan on a going-forward basis,” Sullivan said.