“We have to assume that this drawdown will be opposed,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said this week.
The military is assuming there will be violence because Taliban leadership has not made assurances that they will not restart attacks on troops that were halted when, in 2020, the Trump administration negotiated a deadline to get out by May 1st. The Taliban considers President Biden’s announcement to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 a violation of that agreement.
“It would be irresponsible for us not to assume that this drawdown and forces drawing down — both American and from our NATO allies — could be attacked by the Taliban,” Kirby said.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the withdrawal has begun and that, along with those first steps, an increase in troops will be needed.
“A drawdown is underway. While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all of U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021,” Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said removing the approximately 2,500 to 3,500 American troops, 7,000 coalition troops and the thousands of private contractors is “not without risk.”
“We have begun a deliberate coordinated responsible retrograde of U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. This is a complex operation and not without risk. And it will unfold over the coming weeks,” Milley said in a statement to CNN.
Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert, told the AP that he thinks the Taliban will proceed with caution because “They just want us to go.”
But General Frank McKenzie head of U.S. Central Command warned the Taliban publicly at a press conference last week that military forces are ready to defend themselves during the departure.
“I would advise the Taliban that we will be well prepared to defend ourselves throughout the withdrawal process,” McKenzie said.
Jean-Pierre reiterated Biden’s commitment to finally put an end to The Forever War.
“The President’s intent is clear, the U.S. military departure from Afghanistan will not be rushed… It will be delivered and conducted in a safe and responsible manner that ensures the protection of our forces,” the secretary said.