The United States and NATO will start withdrawing all forces from the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan by May 1, with plans to complete the drawdown of all troops within a few months, officials announced on April 14.
US president Joe Biden said he made the decision to “end America’s longest war,” adding that around 10,000 troops – 2,500 US personnel and another 7,000 from NATO – would be home before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth,” Biden said.
He also noted that 2,448 US troops lost their lives in operation Enduring Freedom and operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the two Afghanistan conflicts America was involved in. Another 20,722 have been wounded.
“After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the vice president, as well as with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and many others around the world, I concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home,” the president said.
He further added that the troops would be withdrawn in a safe, deliberate and responsible manner and in full coordination with partners and allies in Afghanistan. Diplomacy and counter-terrorism mechanisms will be reorganized to hold the Taliban accountable, Biden said.
“Our drawdown will be orderly, coordinated, and deliberate. We went into Afghanistan together, we have adjusted our posture together, and we are united in leaving together,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a joint press conference with the US Secretaries of State and Defense following a virtual meeting of allied foreign and defense ministers.
Stoltenberg called the move “the start of a new chapter” in NATO’s relationship with Afghanistan, saying “allies and partners will continue to stand with the Afghan people, but it is now for the Afghan people to build a sustainable peace.” He noted, however, that any Taliban attacks on NATO troops during this period would be met with a forceful response.
Ministers also addressed Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine, which the Secretary General called “part of a broader pattern of Russian aggressive actions”. Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s strong support for Ukraine, saying “we call on Russia to de-escalate immediately.”