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World US coordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal

14:40  14 april  2021
14:40  14 april  2021 Source:   msn.com

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BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s top national security aides were consulting with NATO on Wednesday to coordinate the alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan with the planned pullout of American troops by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Johanna Geron, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Johanna Geron, Pool via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance’s 30 members on Wednesday to discuss NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan in light of the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal that Biden was to make later in the day.

As US troops prepare to pull out, a look at the war in Afghanistan by the numbers

  As US troops prepare to pull out, a look at the war in Afghanistan by the numbers Here is a look at the current situation for the approximately 2,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and what has transpired over the last 20 years. MORE: Biden to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 US Troops in Afghanistan Officially the Pentagon says there are about 2,500 American troops serving in Afghanistan as part of an advise-and-assist mission to help Afghan security forces. However, U.S. officials have acknowledged the number is slightly higher as U.S. counterterrorism forces are not counted in the official training mission number.

Blinken said that he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the U.S. nor NATO would abandon the country despite the impending pullout. There are roughly 7,000 NATO forces still in Afghanistan in addition to the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

“Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Blinken said. “And together, we have achieved the goals that we we set out to achieve. And now it is time to bring our forces home.”

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“We will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” he said. He added that the mantra that has guided NATO’s Resolute Support mission has been “in together, adapt together, and out together.”

The coalition operation in Afghanistan has special resonance with NATO as its deployment marked the first time the alliance invoked its Article 5 mutual defense pact, which holds that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

Blinken and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg kicked off Wednesday’s meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels by recalling the alliance’s success in driving Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network from Afghanistan.

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  Overnight Defense: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.THE TOPLINE: It's official: U.S. troops will be leaving Afghanistan by Sept. 11.President Biden formally announced his withdrawal plan Wednesday in a speech in the White House's Treaty Room -- the same place former President George W. Bush announced the start of the war nearly 20 years ago."War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking," Biden said. "It's time to end the forever war.

Stoltenberg said that the meetings would be focused on "our future presence in Afghanistan” and that the alliance, which makes decisions on the basis of consensus, could be expected to make those plans known in the near future.

Even before the group meetings began, it appeared that consensus on joint withdrawal was at hand. German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said NATO members were likely to decide to join the U.S. in pulling out their troops by Sept. 11.

“We have always said: We go in together, we go out together,” she told Germany’s ARD television. “I am in favor of an orderly withdrawal.” Germany, which currently has some 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, has always said that it would no longer be able to maintain a presence there if the U.S. were to leave.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

Even as NATO weighs ending its mission in Afghanistan, a potential new flashpoint has arisen — Russia's buildup of troops on its border with eastern Ukraine, which is expected to also be a major topic of conversation on Wednesday The situation there has alarmed the allies, who have repeatedly labeled the troop movements “provocative” and “aggressive” and demanded that Russia stand down or at the very least explain itself. Ukraine is not a NATO ally but aspires to membership over fierce Russian objections.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by fall defies a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal under a peace agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year, but it leaves no room for additional extensions. It sets a firm end to two decades of war that killed more than 2,200 U.S. troops, wounded 20,000 and cost as much as $1 trillion.

But America's withdrawal combined with the departure of NATO troops also risks many of the gains made in democracy, women’s rights and governance, while ensuring that the Taliban, who provided al-Qaida’s haven, remain strong and in control of large swaths of the country.

Blinken sought to address those concerns by saying that the withdrawal would not mean the end of America's or NATO's support for Afghanistan. “Even as we do that, our commitment to Afghanistan, to its future, will remain,” he said.

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  Five questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan President Biden's decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September would be a historic achievement closing a 20-year chapter of U.S. history that saw more than 2,300 troops killed and cost upward of $1 trillion. © Getty Images Five questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan But big questions remain about what Afghanistan will look like when U.S. troops are gone, as well as how the United States will ensure its interests in the region are met and continue to support the Afghan government non-militarily. Here are five questions about Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal.

An administration official said Biden decided that the withdrawal deadline had to be absolute, rather than based on conditions on the ground. “We’re committing today to going to zero” U.S. forces by Sept. 11, and possibly well before, the official said, adding that Biden concluded that a conditioned withdrawal would be “a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Johanna Geron, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Johanna Geron, Pool via AP)

The president’s decision, however, risks retaliation by the Taliban on U.S. and Afghan forces, possibly escalating the 20-year war. Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are at a standstill but are expected to resume later this month in Turkey.

In a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, the Taliban agreed to halt attacks and hold peace talks with the Afghan government, in exchange for a U.S. commitment to a complete withdrawal by May 2021.

Over the past year, U.S. military commanders and defense officials have said that attacks on U.S. troops have largely paused but that Taliban attacks on the Afghans increased. Commanders have argued that the Taliban have failed to meet the conditions of the peace agreement by continuing attacks on the Afghans and failing to cut ties with al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

General: Afghan military will collapse without some US help

  General: Afghan military will collapse without some US help WASHINGTON (AP) — Afghanistan’s military “will certainly collapse” without some continued American support once all U.S. troops are withdrawn, the top U.S. general for the Middle East told Congress Thursday. Gen. Frank McKenzie also said he was very concerned about the Afghan government’s ability to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said that as the U.S. pulls out all forces, “my concern is the Afghans'McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said that as the U.S. pulls out all forces, “my concern is the Afghans' ability to hold ground” and whether they will able to continue to maintain and fly their aircraft without U.S. aid and financial support.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken pauses before addressing a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken pauses before addressing a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, speaks with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken prior to a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, speaks with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken prior to a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)

CIA head said to have made unannounced trip to Afghanistan .
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — CIA Director William Burns made a recent unannounced visit to Kabul, a senior politician and a well-placed public figure told The Associated Press, as concerns mount about Afghanistan's capability to fight terrorism once the U.S. has withdrawn its remaining troops by summer. Separately, a senior former Afghan security official deeply familiar with the country's counterterrorism program said two of six units trained and run by the CIA to track militants have already been transferred to Afghan control. The three men spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive security issues with the media.

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