The US military could complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan within days, reports say, amid increasing Taliban battlefield gains. US officials told Reuters that some US forces were expected to stay to protect the US embassy and Kabul airport. The reports came as a top US commander warned the country risked sliding into civil war as the last US troops leave.
Fighting has surged since the US began withdrawing last month, with the Taliban seizing swathes of territory. CNN quoted US officials corroborating the Reuters report. “This week could be a critical week in the withdrawal and end of the retrograde process,” an unnamed defence official told the network.
About 650 US troops are expected to remain to help secure the US embassy in Kabul, and several hundred more may be stationed at the city’s airport.
President Biden has set a deadline of 11 September for US troops to fully withdraw. But recent reports had suggested most of the more than 4,000 troops deployed in recent months would be out by mid-July, well ahead of time.
The pace of the pull-out now appears even faster. On Tuesday, Gen Scott Miller said Afghanistan could face “very hard times” if its leadership was unable to unite once international troops leave. The warning from the commander of the US-led mission in Afghanistan came just days after the UN warned of “dire scenarios” as the Taliban took hold of many districts.