Afghanistan could face ‘bad possible outcomes’ as US withdraws, says top US general, but negotiated peace still possible

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley pointed to an Afghan army that numbers greater than 300,000 and “has been leading the fight for quite a few years now” as a vital component in figuring out the way forward for the nation as the ultimate US withdrawal formally commences.

“On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes, and on the other hand you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together,” Milley stated. “Which one of these options becomes reality at the end of the day, we frankly don’t know yet and we have to wait and see how things develop over the summer. There’s a lot of variables to this, and it’s not 100% predictable.”

Speaking to a small group of reporters, together with from CNN, throughout a return journey from Hawaii Saturday, Milley stated the US supplies “some limited intelligence and some limited air strike support,” but the Afghan safety forces have operated with rising independence, even when they still rely closely on US contractors for help, upkeep, and extra.

On Saturday, the US started turning a base over to the Afghan army within the Helmand province of Afghanistan, the positioning of a few of the fiercest preventing in opposition to Taliban forces in earlier years. This is one in all a collection of army amenities set to be turned over to Afghan safety forces as a part of the withdrawal that President Joe Biden announced last month.

One day earlier, the Taliban briefly overran an Afghan military base in southeastern Ghazni province, Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Fawad Aman advised CNN, earlier than Afghan forces recaptured it over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the US carried out a precision strike in opposition to rockets aimed toward Kandahar Airfield following the launch of oblique hearth on the web site, Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, stated in a tweet. The oblique hearth brought about no accidents or harm, but US army leaders have vowed to reply forcefully to any focusing on of American or coalition forces.

Asked Saturday whether or not it was possible to glean something about the remainder of the withdrawal from the primary few days, Milley stated it was too early to inform. Milley portrayed the withdrawal of the ultimate troops as the continuation of a course of that has been ongoing for a decade, as an alternative of a indifferent, remoted determination. The peak of US forces was in 2011, with roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, in accordance with the Congressional Research Service. The strategic drawdown successfully started shortly thereafter, Milley stated.

“It’s been a long glidepath as we deliberately handed off functions and responsibilities to the Afghan security forces at the time,” Milley stated. “This has been going on for a while. This is just the final phase.”

As the ultimate withdrawal strikes ahead, Milley addressed the potential of finishing the withdrawal earlier than September 11.

“It’s possible,” Milley stated. “We have a window really. The September timeframe is a ‘no later than’ time. It’s not a ‘no earlier than’ time. We will conduct operations that are coordinated, synchronized, protect the force, and we’re going to do it in a responsible way. We’ll do that as fast as we can, but we want to do it as fast as it’s responsible, coordinated, synchronized with our allies from NATO.”

On April 21, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry stated the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan had been contemplating an earlier withdrawal date, probably as quickly as July 4. Given the emphasis from the Biden administration on “in together, out together” and tight synchronization with NATO allies, it suggests the United States could also be inspecting the opportunity of finishing the drawdown by mid-summer.

“There’s a range, and there’s variables that will play a factor here, so I don’t want to put precise dates on it,” Milley stated, “but the President has given us a window, and we are very confident that we’ll meet those objectives.”

With at most four-and-a-half months till the withdrawal is full, the US stays centered on pursuing a negotiated finish to the preventing, Milley careworn.

“We, the US government, we are still pursuing a negotiated outcome, as it should be. It is not in the interest of the Afghan people, the current Afghan government, or the Taliban for that matter to devolve into this massive civil war, which is one of the outcomes that people talk about. But that’s not in anybody’s interest,” Milley stated.

“A responsible end to the conflict in Afghanistan, the best, the optimal way to do this is through a negotiated outcome, and that is still one of the efforts of the US government is to try to broker that between the warring parties.”

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