The full US and NATO troop withdrawal is expected to be completed by September 11th with no further conditions, ending America’s longest war.
Top US commander for the Middle East Gen. Frank McKenzie is reportedly set to recommend a post-withdrawal plan to allow Washington to monitor the situation in Afghanistan from afar, the Associated Press [AP] reported on Wednesday.
The plan is expected to be presented to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in early June.
McKenzie declined to provide detail on the recommendations, but said it will provide cost estimates to keep surveillance aircrafts over Afghanistan to track terrorist groups in Kabul as well as threats on the Afghan military, which has been dependent on America for maintenance and training.
“It’s time for the Afghan military to stand up and show that they can fight alone,” said McKenzie. “I think it’s going to be a very taxing time for them. I think certainly there is a path for them to preserve what they have now. The risk is high. I don’t want to minimise that.”
While the Taliban have ceased attacks on the US or coalition troops, violence against Afghans and the country’s military forces has continued, he said, noting that both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group have been degraded.
“Our concern would be that ungoverned spaces open in Afghanistan and they are able to reassert themselves,” he said.
“This would not be immediate. I don’t think anybody [thinks] this is something that will happen next month or even in the next six months. But eventually they will gather their strength again and they’ll be a threat to our homeland,” added McKenzie.
The US commander added that negotiations with Afghanistan’s neighbours for overflight rights and troop basing are also “moving forward” but will take time, stressing the importance of setting up bases in neighbouring countries as flying to Kabul would take time.
End talks in Qatar
Earlier this week, Afghan media reported that the Taliban is all set to attend the Istanbul summit on the condition that the final outcome is achieved in Qatar, after reportedly declining to take part in the summit during the past months.
The militant group agreed to resume substantive talks with the Afghanistan government delegation in Doha in the next few days after a stalemate brought peace talks to a halt.
“I think that this will open the way for an Istanbul conference where the Taliban will attend. They might make the agenda based on who in the Afghan government team will attend, not based on the US agenda,” said former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha.
Following a halt in peace talks, negotiators from the Taliban and the Afghanistan government met in Doha on Friday, the second day of a three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban to mark Eid Al-Fitr.
The ceasefire ended on Saturday.
The US is set to completely withdraw its troops from Afghanistan on September 11th with no further conditions instead of the initial May 1st deadline that was stipulated in a February agreement signed with the Taliban in Doha last year, prompting anger from the insurgent group which accused Washington of violating the 2020 accord.
“Historic” talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were launched in Doha in September, though the peace process remains ongoing.