Gen. Austin Scott Miller, commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, confirmed Sunday that the US has begun to withdraw troops from the country in local areas.
“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde. Officially the notification date will be the first of May, but at the same time as we start taking local actions we have already begun that,” Miller told reporters when asked at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, if the American withdrawal from bases had begun.
CNN previously reported that US military withdrawal from Afghanistan was underway with equipment being packed and shipped out, according to three defense officials. President Joe Biden announced his decision to end America’s longest war earlier this month, arguing that the decades-long conflict no longer aligned with American priorities. The deadline the President has set for troops to withdraw is absolute – with no potential for an extension based on worsening conditions on the ground.
Miller also said that the US bases in Afghanistan will be given “primarily” to the Ministry of Defense and other Afghan forces, as well as some equipment.
“There’s certain equipment that we must take back to our countries, that’s a requirement,” he said. “But wherever possible, if we do not have to, we are looking to ensure that the Afghan security forces have the bases, pieces of equipment, parts that are necessary for the functioning of the military.”
There is concern the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan could cause the government in Kabul to collapse and the Taliban to return to power.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, which includes the Middle East and Afghanistan, said Thursday that military planners are looking at ways to continue operations in the country following the withdrawal and in the short term bring in “additional resources” to support a safe draw down of troops.
Asked about the concern of Taliban violence, Miller said, “If the Taliban attack, US or any coalition forces, we will have a forceful response if our forces are attacked.” He also said the US would continue to monitor terrorism and would act when “appropriate.”
Miller said he has spoken with the Taliban Political Commission and that he told them “a return to violence, an effort to force a military decision, would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and the Afghan people.”
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.