Defense

US military: Afghanistan withdrawal up to 12 percent complete

The U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is 6 percent to 12 percent finished, but officials are keeping under wraps the total number of troops still there, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson said Tuesday.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the hidden figures are meant to protect troops from possible Taliban attack as the United States wraps up its longest-running conflict.

“[U.S. Central Command] has expressed a concern about the release of personnel figures specifically given that we have to assume, and we are still assuming, that this drawdown could be opposed by the Taliban,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

Since May 1, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have shipped approximately 104 C-17 loads of equipment out of the country, turned over more than 1,800 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency to destroy, and officially handed over one facility to the Afghan National Army, Centcom said in a statement Tuesday.

The effort began after President Biden in April ordered all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the conflict.

But Centcom, which plans to release weekly updates on the progress of the withdrawal, did not reveal the number of troops still in the country or a more exact percentage of the completed exit process due to operational security concerns.

“We have an obligation to keep our people safe, particularly in a retrograde that could be opposed,” Kirby said. “We need to be careful about the kind of information that’s in the public space.”

Roughly 3,500 U.S. troops were in Afghanistan as of January, but force numbers may temporarily swell as several hundred Army Rangers were sent to the country last week to help with the drawdown.

Kirby said he would speak with Centcom officials on “providing a possible greater clarity on what the percentage indicates,” but overall the Pentagon has “a top priority of protecting our people and those of our allies and partners.”

Tags Afghanistan War Afghanistan withdrawal Biden foreign policy Joe Biden

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