- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2021

America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than 50% complete, officials said Tuesday, putting the U.S. on pace to complete its exit well ahead of President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees operations in the region, said it has moved a massive amount of equipment out of the country and has turned over six facilities to Afghan security forces.

U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed greater than 50% of the entire retrograde process,” CENTCOM said in a statement. 

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. “Frank” McKenzie, CENTCOM commander, told reporters Monday that the withdrawal is “continuing very smoothly,” though he would not offer details on when the exit is expected to be completed.

Mr. Biden this year ordered the Pentagon to pull the remaining 3,500 troops from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, setting a firm end date to the longest war in U.S. history.

Republicans and many national security analysts have blasted the decision, arguing that without U.S. troops in the country, the Taliban will quickly overwhelm Afghan forces and capture key urban areas, perhaps including the capital, Kabul.

Over just the past week, the Taliban has captured eight district centers in four regions of the country, according to information compiled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. The Taliban now controls 93 districts, while Afghan forces control 96. The two sides are battling for control of another 209 districts.

There also are questions about whether the Taliban will sever all ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. As part of a deal it signed with former President Donald Trump last year, the Taliban vowed to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a home base for terrorists, though recent United Nations and Defense Department assessments have found that the insurgent group still has low-level connections with al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is working on plans to evacuate thousands of Afghans who aided the U.S. as interpreters and in other roles. Those individuals are likely to become top Taliban targets once the American military exit is finished.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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