Lloyd Austin, U.S defence secretary, went to Kabul on Sunday during the uncertainty of how long U.S troops to live in the country. Austin went to Afghanistan as the President of the Pentagon. This trip has not been announced earlier. In Kabul, he met with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan officials and U.S. Ambassador to Ross Wilson and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General Austin Miller, reports The Washington Post.
The American media clarify that the main topic during the talks was the question of the timing of the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. Last week, NBC News, citing unnamed sources, reported that President Biden is considering leaving U.S. troops in Afghanistan until November. This, experts say, will violate the deadline for the withdrawal of troops – May 1. The former Trump administration agreed with the Taliban’s representatives (the group is banned in the Russian Federation). In an interview with ABC News, Biden said it would be “difficult” to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1. Still, if the deadline is extended, it “won’t be much longer.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned in a letter to Afghan President Ghani in early March that the Taliban could quickly conquer the country’s territory if U.S. and NATO forces are withdrawn, the Associated Press reported. The letter, the agency noted, said the United States was still considering a May 1 withdrawal date “among other options.”
The Pentagon said there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan, the lowest number since the 2001 troops entered. NATO’s website says there are about 10,000 troops from 36 member states in Afghanistan. In September last year, the Afghan government and the Taliban began negotiations to end the multi-year war, but the process has stalled. Representatives from both sides said they were ready to speed up negotiations. Still, the Taliban insisted on adhering to the agreed timetable for troops’ withdrawal.
In February, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military alliance “will leave when the time is right.” According to NPR, the Taliban already control major roads in Afghanistan. They have targeted and targeted attacks on prominent Afghans in recent months.