Roughly 650 US troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, US officials tell the AP. In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said Thursday. Overall, officials said the US expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July 4, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago. The officials were not authorized to discuss details of the withdrawal and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The departure of the bulk of the more than 4,000 troops that have been in the country in recent months is unfolding well before President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawal. And it comes amid accelerating Taliban battlefield gains, fueling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months. Officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement to keeping any US diplomatic staff in Afghanistan. Still, the decision to keep additional troops there for several more months makes it more complicated for the Biden administration to declare a true end to America’s longest war until later this fall. In a statement Thursday night, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that as Biden has ordered, the US will complete the withdrawal by early September. "Nothing has changed about that goal," Kirby said.
(Read more Afghanistan