The US military has started the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, according to White House and US defense officials.
White House Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, confirmed this to reporters aboard the Air Force One on Friday.
She said, “A drawdown is underway. While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all of US military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2020.”
Fewer than 100 troops, along with military equipment, have been moved largely by aircraft to execute President Joe Biden‘s order to begin the withdrawal process no later than May 1, according to several US defense officials.
“Contractors and US government workers are also departing the country,” a defense official said.
The Pentagon had announced on Tuesday that it is concerned about personnel coming under attack from the Taliban as they depart, so it is not clear if it will disclose all the details of the departure process, which is due to be completed by September 11.
There have been about 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan that are openly acknowledged, plus several hundred additional special operations forces, and defense officials say all of them will depart under the President’s orders.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, called the withdrawal “a complex operation and not without risk.
“We have begun a deliberate coordinated responsible retrograde of US military personnel from Afghanistan. This is a complex operation and not without risk. And it will unfold over the coming weeks.”