Pentagon preparing for Taliban terrorist attacks during the US army withdrawal
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The Pentagon is preparing for possible Taliban attacks on U.S. and coalition forces as they withdraw from Afghanistan, a prospect that complicates the outlook for winding down America’s longest war.
May 1 was the date all U.S. and other foreign forces were to have departed Afghanistan under a February 2020 deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration. As part of that agreement, the Taliban halted attacks on U.S. troops, and none has been killed since then. But the Taliban said it will consider the United States to be in violation of the agreement for missing the deadline for full withdrawal. Their representatives have been vague about whether they intend to attack starting May 1.
President Joe Biden’s decision to proceed with a final but delayed withdrawal adds a new element of security risk as the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 American troops, along with about 7,000 coalition troops and thousands of contractors, begin departing. Biden has said all will be gone by Sept. 11, the date of the 2001 terrorist attacks that prompted the U.S. to invade Afghanistan in the first place.
“We have to assume that this drawdown will be opposed,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday in explaining why Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin decided to keep an aircraft carrier in the Middle East and to move at least four B-52 bombers and portions of an Army Ranger task force to the region as a precaution.
“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 added.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him Thursday that the pullout is “complex and not without risk.”