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US changes military leadership in Afghanistan, plans a base in Qatar

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KABUL: Pentagon has announced that the top general leading U.S. military operations in Afghanistan will transfer his command to the head of U.S. Central Command by July end as the United States winds down its longest-running war.

Pentagon’s spokesperson, John Kirby, on Friday announced plans to switch over military leadership in Afghanistan and floated plans to build a command center in Qatar to logistically and financially support Afghan security and defense forces, especially its fragile Air Force.

Kirby on Friday referred to evacuation of Bagram base and said that leaving the base and changing the leadership structure of US forces in Afghanistan indicates the shrinking presence of US forces in Afghanistan.

The spokesman reiterated that a new unit called “US-Afghanistan Progressive Forces” has been set up to provide a diplomatic presence of this country in Afghanistan and support the security forces. These forces will be deployed in Kabul and will be commanded by Peter Wasley, Commander of the US Navy.

 “The command’s future work will focus on maintaining the US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, helping secure Hamid Karzai International Airport, continuing to advise and assist Afghan security forces, and ultimately counter-terrorism measures,” said Kirby

A Pentagon spokesman also said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had approved a plan to devolve authorities of Scott Miller, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, in the coming weeks to Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command.

According to Kirby, McKenzie will be responsible for leading logistic, technical and financial support to Afghan security forces and counter-terrorism operations after US withdrawal.

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan continues. The Bagram military base in Parwan province, the largest US base in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, was officially evacuated yesterday and handed over to Afghan forces.

John Kirby added that the safe and orderly pullout would enable Washington to maintain its diplomatic presence to support people and government of Afghanistan and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

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