US and NATO Troops Begin Final Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Commander Task Force Helmand Arrives to Visit Troops in Afghanistan by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

American troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of this summer. The 20 year Afghan War has come to a close. 

The country is far from fixed, with a recent attack killing 30 during Ramadan prayers and large areas still controlled by the Taliban. Late last week a VBIED (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device) killed 21 students and police in the east of the country. 

However, the United States and NATO are now wrapping up their mission to train Afghan security forces and turning the mission over to them. 

In other words, Afghanistan is no longer America’s problem. 

There are an estimated 3,000 US troops left in the country and 7,000 NATO troops. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) began in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and ended in 2014, but thousands of US military members stayed in theater to train and advise Afghan security forces after that time. 

An estimated 3,800 American private security contractors have been killed as have 1,144 personnel from NATO countries.

The biggest toll has been Afghan civilians themselves, caught in the middle of the brutal war, with 47,245 civilians killed and millions more fleeing as refugees. 

The Afghan forces have also been hammered since the war began, losing over 66,000 troops and NATO and the US feed it $4 billion a year to keep it going with a lot of the money disappearing. There is a lot that Afghanistan needs to fix on its own, hopefully using some of the input that Americans have given them during their post-2014 deployments. 

The train and assist mission is now coming to an end. 

afghanistan by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Two Decades of Dedication

The heroic dedication of our troops for two decades cannot be measured in numbers. There were 2,312 American soldiers killed in action and 20,066 who have been seriously injured during the Afghan campaign. This war has taken some of our bravest and left others crippled for life. 

In the process America has made enormous gains and fulfilled its mission.

But now it’s time to come home. 

For its part, the US military is currently taking stock of its equipment in Afghanistan and deciding what to give to the Afghans, what to sell and what to ship back stateside. The cost of the war has been significant, surpassing $2 trillion. 

President Biden announced that we were leaving Afghanistan about two weeks ago, but only a few dozen troops have left the field since that time. Now bases will close and remaining troops will come home with the memories of doing their best in a war that will be hard to forget. 

The US and NATO – including Canada, European troops and nations such as Georgia, Lithuania and others – entered Afghanistan in October, 2001 to deny safe haven to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The terrorist network was smoked out of the mountains and sent on the run, although the instability and violence of the country, particularly feeding in from terrorist networks and affiliates in Pakistan – have prolonged the war and continued the serious security challenges that are still faced by the Afghans. 

Biden: Mission Accomplished

According to Biden, the Afghan mission was already accomplished in 2011 with the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan. Despite the fact that al Qaeda continued to spread and groups like ISIS popped up, Biden emphasized that the Afghan mission in particular had been completed at that time. 

The Taliban have participated in peace talks, but like all terrorists they don’t keep their word and have gone back and forth between unpredictable, savage violence against civilians and then saying they want to make a deal. They haven’t promised to lay off attacks while the US withdraws, so this is a fragile situation. 

According to the Taliban, the US should have already been out by May 1 under the deal they made with President Trump in peace talks.

Taliban representative Zabihullah Mujahid said that US troops aren’t totally out yet it has “opened the way for mujahidin to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” but he also said that attacks won’t necessarily take place. 

If they do try to hit us on the way out there will be hell to pay. 

Afghanistan mission head General Austin Miller has made it clear that although more combat would be unfortunate at this time, his troops “have the military means to respond forcefully to any type of attacks.”

Below is the well-made 20010 documentary the Battle for Marjah.