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With U.S. halfway out of Afghanistan, Washington mulls options for embassy’s security

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL:  The U.S. has completed over 50 percent of Afghan withdrawal as the American officials said that the exit would be completed by July 4 while they also work on plans for securing the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The Associated Press says that as early as this week, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie, will give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a range of military options for securing the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and providing counterterrorism support from outside the country once the withdrawal is complete, officials said. The number of American troops needed for the overall security missions inside Afghanistan will depend on a variety of requirements, and could range from roughly a couple hundred to a bit less than 1,000, officials said.

McKenzie’s deliberations are a reminder that much about U.S. postwar support for Afghanistan remains uncertain, including how to protect Afghans who worked with the U.S. government from reprisals and how to avoid an intelligence void that could hamper U.S. early warning of extremist threats inside Afghanistan.

At stake is not just a political verdict on President Joe Biden’s judgment about the risk posed by renewed instability in Afghanistan, but also the legacy of an American war that was launched 20 years ago in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and that imperceptibly morphed into what Biden calls “this forever war.”

McKenzie is expected to provide options on the amount of aerial surveillance and drones needed to keep an eye on any potential resurgence of al-Qaida, Islamic State or other militant groups. Those options will involve U.S. aircraft from ships at sea and air bases in the Gulf region, such as Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. And they could range from persistent U.S. overwatch to a more minimal presence.

The Associated Press quoted some anonymous U.S. officials as saying that there are no options yet for basing U.S. troops or aircraft in nations neighboring Afghanistan, because those possibilities require diplomatic negotiations. Any agreements with countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan would be difficult because there would be Russian opposition.

McKenzie told reporters Monday that the withdrawal from Afghanistan is on pace and “continuing very smoothly.” He said it was “about halfway finished,” but provided no details. Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pullout was more than half completed but provided no specifics.

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