Top US military commanders were recommending against a full withdrawal of US forces from Afghstan, advising to try to cement a peace agreement first, but US President Joe Biden did not share their concern.
Sputnik, citing The Wall Street Journal, reported that according to US officials, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, who leads NATO forces in Afghstan, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all recommended retaining the current force of 2,500 troops while stepping up diplomacy to try to cement a peace agreement.
Officials also said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, himself a retired military commander for the region, shared the concerns of the senior officers, cautioning that withdrawing all US troops would suspend what amounted to an insurance policy for maintaining a modicum of stability in the country.
Austin and Gen. Milley found out about Biden's decision on troop withdrawal on April 6, The Wall Street Journal said. Biden was set on pulling US forces out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House says it will guard against the risk of a new terrorist danger in Afghstan by maintaining warplanes and counterterrorism capabilities at bases outside of the landlocked country.
Current and former military officials say, however, that the lack of a small but capable military presence in Afghstan, including surveillance drones, would greatly complicate any U.S. effort to project force from air bases in the Persian Gulf, aircraft carriers or possible bases in central Asia. Even protecting the US embassy in Kabul, they say, may prove to be a challenge, the newspaper reported.
Sputnik reported that earlier this week, Biden officially announced that the 2,500 American troops in Afghstan would be withdrawn by September 11. The pullout is expected to start by May 1.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance would begin troop withdrawal from Afghstan on May 1 and would wrap it up within several months.
The US Defense Department does not rule out the possibility of deploying additional capabilities to Afghstan for the US drawdown, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday, according to Sputnik.
( With inputs from ANI )
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