The pullout will involve around 2,500 USA service members, 7,092 other forces in the US-led coalition, and 16,832 civilian contractors for the Pentagon who were in the country at the beginning of April. Defense department officials and diplomats told The Associated Press the withdrawal has involved closing smaller bases over the a year ago.
President Joe Biden applauded his own administration for supposedly "ending the forever war in Afghanistan" during remarks to Congress on Wednesday, despite the fact that he acted to prolong the war beyond the May 1 deadline set by predecessor Donald Trump. The military has been taking inventory, deciding what is shipped back to the USA, what is handed to the Afghan security forces and what is sold as junk in Afghanistan's markets.
Afghan soldiers left manning those bases could need plenty of firepower to resist any offensive by Taliban fighters who have been occupying strategic positions in surrounding areas. He was located and killed in 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALS in neighboring Pakistan. In a response to AP questions, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the Taliban leadership was still mulling over its strategy. The US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies went into Afghanistan together on October 7, 2001 to hunt the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who lived under the protection of the country's Taliban rulers. The Defense Department says 2,442 United States troops have been killed and 20,666 wounded since 2001. The Taliban is now thought to control more than half of the country.
A Kabul-based western security official said that militants had kept their side of the bargain.
But he added that fighters were waiting on the decision of Taliban leadership.
More broadly, he said no security guarantee has been given to the United States beyond Saturday's deadline, but talks were underway among the group's leadership and with the USA side. "That's what we were promised", said Mohammad Shoaib Walizada, an Afghan interpreter, who worked with USA forces between 2009 and 2013. Afghanistan's security forces are expected to come under increasing pressure from the Taliban after the withdrawal if no peace agreement is reached in the interim, according to Afghan watchers. "That said, the Taliban is less likely to attack foreign forces now that it knows there is a specific date when they will be leaving".
"Make no mistake, we have the military means to respond forcefully to any type of attacks against the coalition and the military means to support the (Afghan) security forces", he said.
Afghan defence ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said the Taliban had ramped up violence against the Afghan people and their government, while holding fire against foreign forces.
The US and Taliban had signed a historic agreement in February 2020 where the Afghan Taliban in which the group promised to cut the ties with al Qaeda that caused the US to invade Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.
But according to coalition figures, it said, 115 Afghan military personnel were killed and 39 wounded in 31 insider attacks in the first three months of this year.
"We can't rule out attacks", said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.