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The United States has officially started to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, marking the end of what President Joe Biden has called “the war forever.”
The United States and NATO have been present in Afghanistan for almost 20 years.
But the pullout, which lasts until September 11, comes amid escalating violence, with Afghan security forces on high alert for retaliatory attacks.
The Taliban have warned that they are no longer bound by an agreement not to target international troops.
Under an agreement signed last year between the militants and then-President Donald Trump, foreign forces were to leave on May 1, while the Taliban resisted attack by international troops.
Officials told Reuters that the Taliban was protecting Western military bases from rival Islamist groups. This did not stop the Taliban’s attacks on Afghan forces and civilians.
But US President Joe Biden last month some troops would stay until September 11 this year, the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, citing the security situation.
A Taliban spokesperson said that “this breach of principle has paved the way for [Taliban fighters] to take all the counter-actions it deems appropriate against the occupying forces. “
But he also said Taliban fighters would await instructions from the leaders before launching attacks. Some analysts have suggested with a US deadline for the withdrawal in place large-scale attacks could be avoided.
Meanwhile, the United States faces the logistical challenge of packing up and leaving. The PA reports that the military has taken an inventory, deciding what will be returned and what will be sold as junk in Afghan markets.
Why are US forces in Afghanistan?
On September 11, 2001, attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.
The Taliban, radical Islamists who ruled Afghanistan and protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after September 11, the United States launched airstrikes against Afghanistan.
As other countries joined in the war, the Taliban were quickly removed from power. But they don’t just disappear – their influence returned and they dug.
Since then, the United States and its allies have struggled to prevent the collapse of the Afghan government and end the deadly Taliban attacks.
But the violence continues, right?
The withdrawal of US troops begins against a backdrop of fierce clashes between the Taliban and government forces, in the absence of a peace agreement.
An outbreak of violence in Ghazni province overnight has left an unknown number of people dead.
And on Friday, a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, killed up to 30 people and injured 110 – most of them schoolchildren.
US President Joe Biden said the US withdrawal was justified because US forces ensured that the country could not once again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.
And Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said government forces are fully capable of keeping insurgents at bay.
He argued that the withdrawal of US and NATO forces will remove the reason the Taliban are fighting, telling the Taliban, “Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext for fighting foreigners is now over. “
But many do not share the optimism.
“Everyone is afraid that we may return to the dark days of the Taliban era,” Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul, told AFP news agency.
“The Taliban are still the same; they haven’t changed. The United States should have extended their presence for at least a year or two.”
BBC Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent Secunder Kermani said that with the blockade of peace talks between militants and the Afghan government, despite the withdrawal of international engagement, it seems inevitable that the conflict will continue. .