As troops leave, US orders major Kabul embassy withdrawal

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By Matthew Lee | Associated press

WASHINGTON – The State Department on Tuesday ordered a significant number of its remaining members at the US embassy in Kabul to leave Afghanistan as the military intensifies the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

The order came when the US special envoy to Afghanistan told lawmakers it no longer made sense to continue the 20-year deployment of US troops there. At the same time, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he shared the concerns of lawmakers that the rights of women and minorities could be threatened once the withdrawal is complete.

“We should all remain concerned that these rights may suffer,” Khalilzad told the Senate’s foreign relations committee. When asked if the United States would retain any lobbying power to protect these rights once its troops left, Khalilzad was wary. He said aid and other types of diplomatic support “would not be available if they did not respect the human rights of Afghan women or others.”

Shortly before he spoke, the State Department said it had ordered all staff to leave unless their jobs required them to be physically located in Afghanistan. The ordinance was not specific as to the number of people affected, but it went well beyond the usual reduction in staff for safety and security reasons. Such orders normally apply only to non-essential personnel.

In an updated travel advisory for Afghanistan, the department said it had ordered the departure of all US government employees “whose duties may be performed elsewhere.” He also said US citizens should not travel to Afghanistan and those who wish to leave “should depart as early as possible on available commercial flights.”

The embassy in Kabul is heavily dependent on the US military for security, and staff withdrawals have been underway since the Trump administration announced last year that US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1.

The Biden administration extended that deadline until September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, but hastened the withdrawal.

The top US diplomat in Kabul said the departure order had been issued “due to increased violence and threats”, would affect only a relatively small number of employees and would not affect a relatively small number of employees. there would be no reduction in the services offered. Chargé d’affaires Ross Wilson said he “ensures that US diplomacy and support for Afghanistan will be sustainable, strong and effective.”

General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said on Tuesday that the administration remains committed to keeping an operational embassy in Kabul. “We intend to maintain an embassy in Afghanistan in the future. But we’ll have a very, very minimal military presence there – which is strictly necessary to defend the embassy, ​​”he said in an address to the American Enterprise Institute.

The State Department order came just two days after General Austin Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said the U.S. military had started shutting down operations in the country and security forces Afghan women had to be ready to take over.

While the official start of the withdrawal of 2,500 to 3,500 troops from Washington and 7,000 allied NATO forces is May 1, Miller said the withdrawal has already started.

In February of last year, the US military began closing its small bases. In mid-April, the Biden administration announced that the final phase of the withdrawal would begin on May 1 and end before September 11.

The withdrawal of US troops and their colleagues from the NATO coalition continues even in the absence of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the hosting of the Osama bin Laden’a al-Qaida network caused the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.

Negotiations between the Taliban and the government have been at a standstill for some time and talks will not resume until next month, raising fears that the withdrawal of foreign forces could lead to a resumption of all-out civil war.

In his testimony, Khalilzad echoed President Joe Biden and other administration officials in saying that the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan and its development and human rights progress made since 2001. despite the withdrawal.

Khalilzad said he did not think the withdrawal would precipitate an “imminent” collapse of the Afghan government or a reversal of the country’s progress.



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