Kabul, May 1
The final phase of ending America’s war in Afghanistan after 20 years formally began on Saturday with the withdrawal of the last US and NATO troops by the end of summer. President Joe Biden had set May 1 as the official start of the withdrawal of the remaining forces, about 2,500-3,500 US troops and about 7,000 NATO soldiers.
Even before Saturday, the herculean task of packing up had begun. The military has been taking inventory, deciding what is shipped back to the US, what is handed to the Afghan security forces and what is sold as junk in Afghanistan’s markets.
In recent weeks, the military has been flying out equipment on massive C-17 cargo planes. The US is estimated to have spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan in the past two decades, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University, which documents the hidden costs of the US military engagement.
Defence department officials and diplomats said the withdrawal had involved closing smaller bases over the last year. The US and NATO went into Afghanistan together on October 7, 2001, to hunt the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who lived under the protection of the country’s Taliban rulers.
Two months later, the Taliban had been defeated and al-Qaida fighters and their leader, Osama bin Laden, were on the run.
Until now the US and NATO have received no promises from the Taliban that they won’t attack troops during the pullout. — AP