The United States has entered the final phase of withdrawing its own troops and the remaining NATO troops from Afghanistan – with the goal of leaving the country by the end of the summer.
This will end America’s “forever war” in the country, which began with the invasion in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
There are about 2,500 to 3,500 Americans and about 7,000 NATO troops left.
In recent weeks, the military has stolen equipment from massive C-17 cargo planes, but is now stepping up the work of deciding what is returned to the United States, handed over to Afghan security forces. or sold as junk in Afghan markets. .
The Taliban, who have renewed their vigor in their battle to regain power in Afghanistan, continue to accuse Washington of violating the agreement it signed with Donald Trump more than a year ago.
In that deal, the United States said it would pull out completely by May 1.
With the deadline passed, Kabul was on the cutting edge on Saturday, with a significantly increased military presence and security at checkpoints.
Security sources said the Afghan capital was on “high alert”.
In a statement on Saturday, Taliban military spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the failure of the United States to withdraw within the agreed timeframe “paved the way for the Mujahedin (of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan ) so that they take all the countermeasures they deem appropriate against the occupying forces “.
But he said fighters on the battlefield would not act until their leaders told them to do so and any decision to do so would be based on “the sovereignty, values and best interests of the country. “.
On Saturday, it was not clear whether this wish was being honored.
What a spokesman for US forces described as “ineffective indirect fire” at an airfield in Kandahar caused no injury or damage and the Taliban did not indicate whether they were involved in the incident.
This prompted the commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, to warn that it would be a mistake on the part of the insurgents to attack foreign troops.
Violence in Afghanistan has worsened since the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement in February 2020.
Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which as part of the deal were supposed to create a lasting peace, quickly stalled.
The United States has reportedly spent more than $ 2 trillion in Afghanistan over the past two decades, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.
It began on October 7, 2001, with the United States and its NATO allies setting out to track down the al Qaeda perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks who were living under the protection of the country’s Taliban leadership.
Two months later, the Taliban were defeated and Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda forces were forced to escape.
When he announced last month that the US withdrawal was moving forward, President Joe Biden said the initial mission was accomplished when bin Laden was killed by US special forces in neighboring Pakistan 10 years ago. .
Since then, Al Qaeda has ceased to be the threat it once perceived to be and Islamic State and other Islamist extremists have spread in a global phenomenon which Mr. Biden says is not approached by keeping a large number of soldiers in a country.
Some 47,245 civilians have been killed since 2001, according to the Costs of War project. Millions more have been forced from their homes in Afghanistan or to flee to Pakistan, Iran and Europe.
An estimated 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan soldiers have been killed, with the United States and NATO paying $ 4 billion a year to keep their security forces active.
Some 2,442 American soldiers, according to the United States Department of Defense, and 1,144 members of other NATO countries were killed, including 454 British soldiers in 2015.