Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley pointed to an Afghan army that numbers greater than 300,000 and “has been leading the fight for quite a few years now” as a vital ingredient in figuring out the way forward for the nation as the ultimate US withdrawal formally commences.

“On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes, and on the other hand you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together,” Milley mentioned. “Which one of these options becomes reality at the end of the day, we frankly don’t know yet and we have to wait and see how things develop over the summer. There’s a lot of variables to this, and it’s not 100% predictable.”

Speaking to a small group of reporters, together with from NCS, throughout a return journey from Hawaii Saturday, Milley mentioned the US supplies “some limited intelligence and some limited air strike support,” however the Afghan security forces have operated with rising independence, even when they nonetheless rely closely on US contractors for help, upkeep, and extra.

On Saturday, the US started turning a base over to the Afghan army within the Helmand province of Afghanistan, the location of a number of the fiercest preventing in opposition to Taliban forces in earlier years. This is one in all a collection of army services set to be turned over to Afghan security forces as a part of the withdrawal that President Joe Biden announced last month.

One day earlier, the Taliban briefly overran an Afghan military base in southeastern Ghazni province, Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Fawad Aman advised NCS, earlier than Afghan forces recaptured it over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the US carried out a precision strike in opposition to rockets aimed toward Kandahar Airfield following the launch of oblique hearth on the web site, Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, mentioned in a tweet. The oblique hearth brought about no accidents or injury, however US army leaders have vowed to reply forcefully to any focusing on of American or coalition forces.

Asked Saturday whether or not it was possible to glean something about the remainder of the withdrawal from the primary few days, Milley mentioned it was too early to inform. Milley portrayed the withdrawal of the ultimate troops because the continuation of a course of that has been ongoing for a decade, as an alternative of a indifferent, remoted choice. The peak of US forces was in 2011, with roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, in response to the Congressional Research Service. The strategic drawdown successfully started shortly thereafter, Milley mentioned.

“It’s been a long glidepath as we deliberately handed off functions and responsibilities to the Afghan security forces at the time,” Milley mentioned. “This has been going on for a while. This is just the final phase.”

'I stay up nights': Afghans working for US worry about their future after Biden withdrawal announcement'I stay up nights': Afghans working for US worry about their future after Biden withdrawal announcement

As the ultimate withdrawal strikes ahead, Milley addressed the potential of finishing the withdrawal earlier than September 11.

“It’s possible,” Milley mentioned. “We have a window really. The September timeframe is a ‘no later than’ time. It’s not a ‘no earlier than’ time. We will conduct operations that are coordinated, synchronized, protect the force, and we’re going to do it in a responsible way. We’ll do that as fast as we can, but we want to do it as fast as it’s responsible, coordinated, synchronized with our allies from NATO.”

On April 21, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry mentioned the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan had been contemplating an earlier withdrawal date, presumably as quickly as July 4. Given the emphasis from the Biden administration on “in together, out together” and tight synchronization with NATO allies, it suggests the United States could also be analyzing the potential for finishing the drawdown by mid-summer.

“There’s a range, and there’s variables that will play a factor here, so I don’t want to put precise dates on it,” Milley mentioned, “but the President has given us a window, and we are very confident that we’ll meet those objectives.”

With at most four-and-a-half months till the withdrawal is full, the US stays centered on pursuing a negotiated finish to the preventing, Milley burdened.

“We, the US government, we are still pursuing a negotiated outcome, as it should be. It is not in the interest of the Afghan people, the current Afghan government, or the Taliban for that matter to devolve into this massive civil war, which is one of the outcomes that people talk about. But that’s not in anybody’s interest,” Milley mentioned.

“A responsible end to the conflict in Afghanistan, the best, the optimal way to do this is through a negotiated outcome, and that is still one of the efforts of the US government is to try to broker that between the warring parties.”



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