US and Nato start to formally withdraw troops from Afghanistan

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The US has started formally withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, beginning the end of what President Joe Biden called “the forever war”.

The US and Nato have had a presence in Afghanistan for almost 20 years.

But the withdrawal, which runs until 11 September, comes amid escalating violence, with Afghan security forces on high alert for reprisal attacks.

The Taliban have warned they are no longer bound by an agreement not to target international troops.

Under a deal signed last year between the militants and then-President Donald Trump, foreign forces were to have left by 1 May while the Taliban held off attacking international troops.

Officials told Reuters during this time the Taliban has been protecting western military bases from rival Islamist groups. That has not stopped Taliban attacks on Afghan forces and civilians.

But US President Joe Biden last month some troops would stay on until 11 September this year, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, citing the security situation.

A Taliban spokesman said “this violation in principle has opened the way for [Taliban fighters] to take every counter-action it deems appropriate against the occupying forces.”

But he also said Taliban fighters would await instructions from leaders before mounting attacks. Some analysts suggested with a US deadline for withdrawal in place large-scale attacks could be averted.

Meanwhile the US faces the logistical challenge of packing up and leaving. The AP report the military has been taking inventory, deciding what will be shipped back and what will be sold as junk on Afghanistan’s markets.

Why are US forces in Afghanistan?
On 11 September 2001, attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.

The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan and protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched air strikes against Afghanistan.

As other countries joined the war, the Taliban were quickly removed from power. But they didn’t just disappear – their influence grew back and they dug in.

Since then, the US and its allies have struggled to stop Afghanistan’s government collapsing, and to end deadly attacks by the Taliban.

Agencies

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