The Pentagon says the US withdrawal is 95 percent complete and will be completed by Aug. 31. And while the Biden administration has promised to continue financial assistance and logistical support for Afghan forces after August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the focus of US military efforts there. It will counter terrorist threats, not the Taliban.
Austin said the United States will “watch over” al Qaeda, the extremist network whose use of Afghanistan as a haven to plan the September 11 attacks on the United States was the reason US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
“Our main goal going forward is to make sure that violence, terrorism, cannot be exported from Afghanistan to our homeland, so we will maintain the ability to not only observe that, but also address it if it arises,” he added. Austin said, adding that the Taliban pledged in 2020 not to provide a sanctuary for al Qaeda in the future.
“We hope they fulfill that commitment. If they want legitimacy in the future, I think that’s something they will have to consider. That’s one way to earn it, so we’ll see what happens.”
He reiterated his view that there is a “medium risk” that al Qaeda will regain the ability to launch attacks against the West in about two years after the United States leaves the United States.
“But again, there are a number of things that could happen to speed that up a bit or slow it down.”
General Milley said the Taliban now control about half of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan, and while they have yet to capture some of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, they are putting pressure on about half of them. As the Taliban seize more territory, Afghan security forces are consolidating their positions to protect key population centers, including Kabul, he said.
“A significant amount of territory has been taken over the course of six, eight, 10 months by the Taliban, so the momentum seems to be – the strategic momentum seems to be – kind of like with the Taliban,” General Milley said.
While the Taliban try to create the impression that their victory over the US-backed Kabul government is inevitable, he believes the Afghan army and police have the training and equipment to prevail. He said he would not rule out a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, nor would he exclude “a complete takeover by the Taliban.”
Countries with the highest military spending in the world
“I don’t think the endgame is written yet,” General Milley said.