Protection secretary travels to Afghanistan as troop withdrawal deadline looms

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Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani (R) meets U.S. Secretary of Protection Lloyd Austin, in Kabul, Afghanistan March 21, 2021.

Presidential Palace/Handout by way of REUTERS

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Protection Lloyd Austin traveled to Afghanistan on Sunday to satisfy with the nation’s chief, as Washington considers a possible finish to America’s longest battle.

The journey, which makes Austin the primary Biden Cupboard-level official to go to the war-torn nation, comes 40 days forward of a U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.

In February 2020, the United States brokered a deal with the Taliban that might usher in a everlasting cease-fire and diminished additional the U.S. navy’s footprint from roughly 13,000 troops to eight,600 by mid-July final 12 months.

By Might 2021, all international forces would depart Afghanistan, in accordance with the deal. There are about 2,500 U.S. troops at present within the nation.

The Biden administration has but to announce its subsequent steps ahead in Afghanistan.

The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have price U.S. taxpayers greater than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, in accordance with a Defense Department report.

The present U.S. navy operations, designated Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, and Operation Noble Eagle for homeland safety missions within the U.S. and Canada, have accounted for $265.7 billion of that sum.

Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, which started in October 2001 and formally resulted in December 2014, price taxpayers $578.7 billion.

Of the three present operations, Freedom’s Sentinel takes the lion’s share of prices at $197.3 billion, adopted by Inherent Resolve at $40.5 billion and Noble Eagle at $27.9 billion.

U.S. Secretary of Protection Lloyd Austin walks throughout his go to in Kabul, Afghanistan March 21, 2021.

Presidential Palace/Handout by way of REUTERS

In keeping with the report, the cash goes towards coaching, gear, upkeep in addition to meals, clothes, medical providers and pay for troops.

Final month, the world’s strongest navy alliance met to debate an array of challenges dealing with the 30-member group. Excessive on the agenda was the trail ahead in Afghanistan. NATO joined the worldwide safety effort in Afghanistan in 2003 and at present has greater than 7,000 troops within the nation.

NATO Secretary-Normal Jens Stoltenberg stated the alliance will proceed to evaluate the state of affairs on the bottom in Afghanistan.

“Our intention is to ensure that we have now a long-lasting political settlement that may make it potential for us to go away in a means that does not undermine our primary aim and that’s to stop Afghanistan from changing into as soon as once more a protected haven [for terrorists],” Stoltenberg stated.

“Nearly all of the troops are from European allies and accomplice nations. We’ll do what is important to ensure that our troops are safe,” he stated when requested if the alliance was ready for violence if the settlement with the Taliban is damaged.

Austin informed reporters on the heels of the NATO assembly that the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan can be contingent on a discount of violence within the nation.

“The violence should lower, now,” Austin said, in his first press briefing with reporters. “I informed our allies that it doesn’t matter what the result of our overview, the USA won’t undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he stated, referring to the digital NATO conferences.

“There might be no surprises. We’ll seek the advice of one another, seek the advice of collectively and resolve collectively and act collectively,” Austin stated of the NATO-led mission.