President Joe Biden has described the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan as “secure and orderly,” but the reality on the ground suggests differently.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden said US military activity would cease on August 31. He previously said he wanted the withdrawal by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks.
“The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our troops as they depart,” he said.
However, the US pullout has appeared rushed.
US troops left Bagram Airfield, their key base in Afghanistan, at 3 a.m. last week, the base’s new commander told the BBC.
They were ceding control of the base to the US-allied Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, but didn’t let them know they were leaving, Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani said.
“We [heard] some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Kohistani told the AP.
The Americans also shut off the base’s power as they left, leaving some 5,000 prisoners, the BBC reported.
People also looted the base shortly after the departure of US troops.
Furthermore, the fate of many Afghan civilians who worked with the US military are now fearing for their lives given that their protection has departed.
Biden said in early July that the thousands of Afghans who helped the US “are not going to be left behind,” but did not specify how.
The Biden administration is now considering whether to offer fast-track visa routes to Afghan women, politicians, journalists, and activists whom the Taliban could punish, Reuters reported. John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, also said the military was considering relocating Afghan interpreters and their families to other countries, including US territories, The New York Times reported.
Though Biden said that US forces will be gone from Afghanistan by August 31, about 1,000 troops are to remain to guard the US Embassy in Kabul, CNN previously reported.
And as US forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban are gaining ground, stoking fears that the country could slide into civil war.
Gen. Austin Miller, the top US general in Afghanistan, told the AP earlier this month that civil war was “certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it’s on right now.”
In his Thursday speech, Biden denied that a Taliban takeover was “inevitable,” saying the Taliban’s 75,000 fighters were no match for the 300,000 troops serving with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
He also said the US had accomplished all its objectives in Afghanistan, adding: “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”