Pentagon seeks to soften blow from US withdrawal from Afghanistan

The August date also gives the administration more time to find places to resettle thousands of Afghans and their families, who aided the Americans during the 20 Years War. The White House has come under heavy pressure to protect Afghan allies from Taliban revenge attacks and speed up the long and complex process of providing them with special immigrant visas.

Administration officials have previously said they are considering Guam as a possible location, but State Department officials have said they need multiple locations. The foreign ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were both in Washington last week, and the issue of Afghan security was raised during their meetings with Mr. Austin and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

Finally, letting General Miller stay a few more weeks, and extending the security umbrella at least until August, is intended to offer, at the very least, a boost to the besieged Afghan troops. Pentagon officials have said leaving Bagram Air Base and removing General Miller at the same time would have been a devastating blow to Afghan morale.

“A safe and orderly withdrawal allows us to maintain a continued diplomatic presence, support the Afghan people and government, and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our homeland,” Kirby said.

The White House joined the campaign of reassurance messages on Friday – to a point. Mr Biden said that while the United States still retained the ability to conduct air strikes to protect the Afghan government, no reversal of the withdrawal was on the table.

“We have developed a capability beyond the horizon,” he said, referring to US warplanes and armed Reaper drones based primarily in the Persian Gulf, “but the Afghans are going to have to do it themselves- same with the Air Force they have. “

But all US combat troops and planes are now out of Afghanistan, officials said, so any military support for Afghan forces will have to come from US bases an eight-hour drive in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates.

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