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US Commander: Some troops to remain in region after Afghanistan withdrawal

It remains unclear exactly where US will move soldiers set to leave country

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The top commander in charge of US forces in the Middle East said on Wednesday that some of the 3,500 American troops set to leave Afghanistan by September 11 will probably remain in the region.

“I think some of the forces are going to remain in Central Command because we are going to look at offshore, over-the-horizon operations, and that’s going to require some different things,” Central Command’s Gen Kenneth McKenzie testified to Congress.

“Nothing on the scale and expenditures that you’re seeing now in Afghanistan of course, but we still need to do some things there as well.

“But I think broadly it’s going to be a significant lever for the department to apply against what, I agree, are some of the more significant challenges that we face to date.”

Gen McKenzie said the US would continue with counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan but identified China and Russia as some of the more pressing threats facing the Defence Department.

It remains unclear where in the region the US can post military for future counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

Gen McKenzie said the administration of President Joe Biden did not have agreements with neighbouring countries to station US forces.

That could hinder Washington’s ability to conduct air strikes and surveillance operations in Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

“Right now, we’re engaged in a significant effort to evaluate where we want to put potential forces where they’d be best optimised in geography and also the diplomatic angle of it as we go forward,” he said.

He said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has instructed him to prepare a “detailed” plan by the end of April, outlining options for future counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

Acting defence secretary Amanda Dory promised to provide members of Congress with more specific details on those options in a classified part of the House of Representatives briefing.

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