Pentagon chief: Afghanistan withdrawal 'slightly' ahead of schedule

Pentagon chief: Afghanistan withdrawal 'slightly' ahead of schedule
© Greg Nash

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is “slightly” ahead of schedule, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it China moves quickly to replace America in Afghanistan Harris to travel to Vietnam, Singapore in August MORE said Thursday.

“I can report to you today that the retrograde is proceeding on pace, indeed slightly ahead of it,” Austin told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense in his opening statement.

He offered no further details of the pace, and lawmakers did not ask for elaboration during questioning at the hearing meant to focus on the $715 billion Pentagon budget being released Friday.

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President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE has ordered all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked America’s longest war. But several reports have indicated the withdrawal could be completed as soon as July.

In its most recent update on the withdrawal Tuesday, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said the process is about 16 to 25 percent complete.

Centcom is only giving ranges for completion of the withdrawal and not specifying the number of troops that have left Afghanistan over what it says are concerns about service members’ safety.

The withdrawal has included flying about 160 C-17 cargo planes’ worth of material out of Afghanistan and giving more than 10,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction, Centcom said.

Additionally, the United States has handed over control of five bases to the Afghan government, according to Centcom.